November 18, 2008

"I Cried Until My Soul Had Completely Left My Body"

As we all know, Cheng Fei had a rocky Olympics. She was on cloud nine after the team competition, only to swallow a bitter pill during the individual event finals, an experience she likened to "a trip from Heaven to Hell."

According to this Sina article, Cheng cried all night after her disappointing performances on vault and floor. "I cried until my soul had completely left my body," Cheng was quoted as saying.

Cheng Fei after her ordeal at the Olympics (photo: Amy Sancetta/AP Photo)

She felt empty and wasn't sure whether she wanted to go on competing. But her coaches felt she should, to exorcize the demons that were haunting her. Said coach Lu Shanzhen, "We're letting Cheng Fei continue to take part in competitions both at home and abroad to help her to find that competitive spirit, and to dispel the shadow of the mistakes she made at the Beijing Olympics. Unexpectedly [given her lack of systematic training], she's performing better at each competition. Her beam and floor are already close to her peak level."

But Cheng is definitely being granted the opportunity to let her hair down.

According to Sina, the national team coaches allowed the girls to spend a few days on the beach after the national championships, held in the coastal city of Qingdao. The break did Cheng a world of good. She's making a conscious effort now to be more relaxed and open-hearted.

"Now that the Olympics are over, I don't have so many worries," Cheng was quoted as saying in another Sina story. " I'm gradually trying to change myself. I'm allowing myself to be happier and to do things I haven't done before."

Such as treating herself to nice things apparently. Chinese journalists are making much of the fact that Cheng Fei has begun to wear earrings, a sign that she's opening up to the more frivolous aspects of life. But it's not as if Cheng's life is suddenly going to revolve around fun. While she's still focusing mainly on her training, she's also studying at Wuhan University. When the competitive season is over, she hopes to "take the opportunity to study a little, learn a few things."


She's not sure what the future will bring competitionwise. "Right now I'm preparing for the World Cup Final and the National Games. I can't confirm now whether I'll compete at the London Olympics."

She thinks it may be hard to work herself up to such a big competition again. "I'm not sure I can go on training like that. I trained so hard and was in such good shape, yet I still made mistakes. Will I be in the same kind of shape at the next Olympics? And even if I am, who's to say what might happen?"

Nobody can guarantee that Cheng will do well in London, but all the same, the Chinese press is doing its best to persuade her to go on. In one of the two Sina articles from which the above quotes were taken, the journalist ends up reminding readers that Yang Wei (who, like Cheng Fei, hails from Hubei Province) also suffered a great disappointment at the (2004) Olympics, only to rebound in silence and make his dreams come true four years later.

We'll have to wait and see if Cheng can pull off a Yang.

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