Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing took home gold and silver, respectively, in the final of the women’s balance beam Tuesday, while America's Simon Biles claimed bronze.
The hashtag "American player Sunisa is Guan Chenchen’s number one fan" was trending on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, with more than 1 million searches by Friday evening Tokyo time. Lee had retweeted a video that Guan posted of her winning routine this week, with the caption: “I love her sm.”
Another user's post on Weibo, praising the athletes' show of sportsmanship, had been shared more than 27,000 times and received more than 172,000 likes.
"This is the moment that I like," one user posted alongside a photograph of Guan and Tang embracing after the results, while Biles and Lee watched over smiling.
After the results were announced, Biles hugged 16-year-old Guan, showing her support for the Olympic champion. Biles' teammate Sunisa Lee also hugged Guan, while smiling broadly. Lee cheered Guan during her winning beam routine.
At a news conference after the event, Biles said she was honored to be sitting next to Guan and Tang.
“They did absolutely amazing,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “I watched them train so hard, so they are definitely deserving as one and two.”
Tensions over trade, Beijing’s crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, and accusations of human rights violations committed by China in Xinjiang on its Muslim Uyghur minority have soured relations between the United States and China in recent years.
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Meanwhile, Asian Americans in the U.S. have experienced an alarming increase in hate crimes during the coronavirus pandemic. A Pew study from April found that about one-fifth of Asian Americans directly attributed the attacks to former President Donald Trump’s “China virus” rhetoric.
But athletes at the Tokyo Olympics have demonstrated what some hope to see more of: empathy and camaraderie.
“The whole picture gives me the feeling that this is a normal human emotion, regardless of color and nationality,” Weibo user Pepper Wo wrote. “It’s pure human.”
Another user, Sean Turing, wrote: “People who talk about politics in the Olympics, I understand them. People who show human love and peace in the Olympics, I respect them.”
On Tuesday, the Chinese Olympic Committee posted a photo of the four elated athletes to Twitter, writing: “We feel the same! This is what it means.”
Lee won gold in the women’s individual all-round gymnastics final, defending the title for Team USA, and becoming the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics.
In a similar show of solidarity last week, Mutaz Barshim from Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi from Italy, decided to become co-champions of the men’s high jump event.
After both successfully cleared the 2.37 meter mark, they attempted to pass 2.39 meters in a bid to win sole ownership of the gold medal — but neither succeeded after their three attempts.
Instead of continuing, they agreed to share the title, and embraced each other in an emotional display of celebration.