Chinese Gymnast Li Donghua Marries Swiss Woman, Wins Olympic Gold After Great Hardships

By Christophe95 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26833408

Team or love. That was the choice that Chinese Olympic gymnast Li Donghua faced in 1988 when he fell for Esperanza Friedli, a young Swiss woman he met in Beijing when she was visiting China that year, as reported by China Daily. Li could either stay with China’s national gymnastics team or wed Friedli, but not both.

By then, Li was accustomed to hardship, surviving a number of devastating injuries in the course of his gymnastics career with China, including one that nearly claimed his life. Even if he stayed with the team, he would only serve as a coach, which meant he couldn’t continue pursuing his dreams of Olympic gold.

So Li Donghua left the team to marry Esperanza Friedli.

Their joyous reunion, however, couldn’t satisfy his longtime goal of medaling at the Games — which is why the couple moved to Switzerland. But the move put Li Donghua’s Olympic ambitions on hold:

Swiss law stipulated that immigrants married to Swiss nationals must wait five years to acquire Swiss nationality, which meant that Li would have to wait that long before he could compete internationally.  Li ended up watching the bulk of his prime athletic years, including 1992 and the Barcelona Olympics, agonizingly tick away.

Those years were tough on him:

He had to train without any funds and his only coach was a set of video tapes.

“I had to rent the apparatus and install them by myself, but I was jobless.

“At first, there was naturally much jealousy from local gymnasts, and many Swiss did not understand why they should have a Chinese person on their team.

His wife Esperanza struggled during this time to support Li with her job at a department store.

By the time the 1996 Summer Olympics began, Li Donghua was already a decorated gymnast, winning bronze in 1994 and gold in 1995 at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship. In Atlanta, Li finally realized his Olympic hopes, walking away with a gold medal on the pommel horse.

You have to love what he said of his Olympic win:

“There is no question in my mind,” Li said six months later, “half of this medal is mine and half of it is Esperanza’s.”

While Li Donghua and his Swiss wife ultimately divorced in 2004, their legendary story of overcoming hardships for love and Olympic gold lives on.

Want to read more coverage of Olympic-related stories? Check out our Olympics archives, where you’ll find Olympic Speedskater Shaolin Sandor Liu Has a Cool China Connection Beyond His Chinese Father and 9 Awesome Olympic Moments from Asian Figure Skaters Around the World.

9 Awesome Olympic Moments from Asian Figure Skaters Around the World

If there’s one thing I love about the Winter Olympics, it’s figure skating. And at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Asian figure skaters from around the world have delivered some incredible Olympic moments in figure skating, even making and breaking records.

Here are 9 awesome Olympic moments from Asian figure skaters from around the world:

Vincent Zhou becomes first to land quadruple lutz at the Olympics

While American figure skater Vincent Zhou ultimately ended up in sixth place, he created a golden moment at the Olympics with his pioneering quadruple lutz, becoming the first person to complete the jump at the Games.

Boyang Jin pulls off record fourth-place performance for China

Never mind that Chinese figure skater Boyang Jin came in fourth place, just shy of a medal. He’s now beloved in China for becoming the country’s highest-ranked Olympic athlete in men’s figure skating. Besides, his choice of Star Wars music won plenty of applause from audiences, so maybe the force will be with him next time around.

Nathan Chen lands a record six quadruple jumps in his free program

While American figure skater Nathan Chen couldn’t bring home a medal in men’s figure skating, he stunned audiences by landing a record six quadruple jumps during his free program, with a score that even topped Yuzuru Hanyu’s free skating performance. Wow! He’s proven he’s worthy of a medal, and at 18 he still has Olympic chances ahead of him.

Mirai Nagasu thrills as first American woman to nail a triple axel

Despite her inconsistency on the ice, Mirai Nagasu still delivered one of the most thrilling moments of the Olympic Games when she successfully landed a triple axel during the ladies free skating event in the team figure skating competition — a first for American women. Mirai Nagasu also became the third woman to do so in any competition after Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner, and her performance helped America walk away with a team bronze.

Alex Shibutani and Maia Shibutani become first ice dancers of Asian descent to receive Olympic medals

American ice dancers Alex Shibutani and Maia Shibutani (the “Shib Sibs”) didn’t just wow audiences with stunning performances in ice dancing. They also made history as the first ice dancers of Asian decent to win Olympic medals — a bronze as part of team USA and a bronze in ice dancing. Alex Shibutani also shared an inspiring thread of tweets, noting “Our differences are what make us unique.”

China’s silver medalists Han Cong and Sui Wenjing dazzle with near-perfect short program

While this duo ultimately took the silver in figure skating pairs, Chinese figure skaters Han Cong and Sui Wenjing will be remembered for a powerful short program performance — one that judges considered the second strongest the world has ever witnessed.

“Pocket rocket” Shoma Uno delivers silver for Japan

Though Japanese figure skater Shoma Uno was invariably overshadowed by Olympic champion and fellow compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu, Uno — also known as the “pocket rocket” for his superlative jumping skills — secured a silver medal in his first Olympic appearance, allowing Japan to occupy two positions on the podium.

Hallelujah! Patrick Chan finally gets Olympic gold through Canada’s team medal

The Canadian figure skater’s song for his free skate program — Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” — turned out to be apropos. After years of chasing Olympic gold, Patrick Chan finally secured the medal through Canada’s team win in figure skating.

Yuzuru Hanyu clinches a second consecutive Olympic gold in men’s figure skating — and gets showered with Winnie-the-Pooh bears

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s consummate run in the men’s figure skating competition earned him a second consecutive Olympic gold, and legendary status as the second person to accomplish this after Dick Button. Some are calling him the greatest figure skater of all time. But he’s also famous for his love of Winnie the Pooh, leading his entourage of fans to rain down stuffed Pooh bears after his performances. It’s quite a phenomenon to behold at the Olympics, much like Yuzuru Hanyu himself.

What are your favorite Olympic moments?

Olympic Figure Skater Yan Han Performs to “Twilight” Song, and Reminds Us of Edward in “Twilight”

Yan Han TwilightRecently, Chinese Olympic figure skater Yan Han took to the ice to a version of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” — and audiences cheered his choice of such a romantic, moving song. (In 2011 and 2012, the song became synonymous with Bella, Edward and their legendary human-vampire romance when it played in the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” movies).

Never mind that he had some stumbles. His song for the men’s figure skating short program was endearing to audiences, especially those of us who adore “Twilight”. (Team Yan Han, anyone?)

But if you’ve seen the Edward in the “Twilight” movies (played by Robert Pattinson) and witnessed figure skater Yan Han on the ice, you might just agree with something Chinese fans have been saying. That he looks like Edward in “Twilight”.

When asked about it by the Chinese media, Yan Han acknowledged the similarity. (Interestingly, CCTV mentioned in their Olympic commentary that his choreographer Lori Nichols noticed the resemblance between Yan Han and Edward, and used this to tailor his moves for the short program.)

In response to a question about who was more handsome, Yan Han said that in the movies, of course Edward was more handsome, but joked that on the ice, he is more confident.

It’s great to see him display a little humor after his uneven performance. Let’s hope that spirit and confidence, boosted by this gorgeous song, will help him land those jumps next time around. (Admittedly, he’s has had a tough Olympics, since he is still healing from a number of injuries, as he told Chinese press in an emotional interview.)

In the meantime, you can once again sigh over his routine set to “A Thousand Years” online. And you can learn more about the Olympic figure skater at his Wikipedia page.

Did you see Olympic figure skater Yan Han perform to the “Twilight” song? Do you think he looks like Edward in “Twilight”?

Olympic Speedskater Shaolin Sandor Liu Has a Cool China Connection Beyond His Chinese Father

While Jun and I were watching China compete in the men’s 1,500m speedskating event at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, we happened across a fascinating young man among the competition: Hungary’s Olympic speedskater Shaolin Sandor Liu.

Shaolin Sandor Liu Chinese

After seeing his name, I knew one of his parents must be Chinese. Turns out, besides his Hungarian mother, he has a Chinese father.

But that’s not his most fascinating connection to China. Here’s what I discovered on his athlete page at the Olympics website:

He and younger brother Liu Shaoang were given the opportunity to train in People’s Republic of China earlier in their career. “We were really lucky. When we started there was a world championships in Hungary and the Chinese team came. My father, being Chinese, started speaking with them, helped with different things in Hungary and getting to know the country. They said since his two sons were Chinese they should come and train in China. It sounded good to him so he decided to take the chance to bring us to China and we were training there for one-and-a-half years. Before our results weren’t really good. After that time we came back from China and we won every competition.”

As anyone who follows short track speedskating knows, China has a powerhouse of a team in this sport, with a total medal count only second to the leading country, South Korea. So I’m not surprised that Shaolin Sandor Liu improved so much after training with the Chinese team.

Shaolin Sandor Liu claimed gold in the 500m short track speedskating event at the 2016 World Championships in Seoul. During the current World Cup short track speedskating season, he’s had a number of strong performances, including ranking first in the 500m event at Budapest and the 1,000m event at Seoul.

That’s why, while he only finished in fifth place in the 1,500m short track speedskating finals the other day, Shaolin Sandor Liu is still a solid contender in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. He’s set to compete in the 1,000m event Tuesday, February 13 at 19:26 Korea time. If you happen to tune in, watch for him — and why not root him on as well?

Additionally, here are few more interesting things about Shaolin Sandor Liu:

  • His parents — a Chinese father and Hungarian mother — aren’t the only reason I’ve tagged this post AMWF (Asian male/White female, in this case). Liu’s current girlfriend is Elise Christie, the short track speedskating star from Britain.
  • For curious readers who happen to know Chinese, his name Shaolin is written as 少林 (shàolín), the same as the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan province. (And according to an anonymous post online in Chinese, his Mandarin is pretty good.)

To learn more about Shaolin Sandor Liu, head on over to his athlete page for the Olympics or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

What fascinating athletes have you encountered so far while watching the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics?

4 Hot Asian Male Athletes We’re Watching at the 2016 Olympics

Half the fun of watching the Olympics is the athletes themselves. They can inspire, amaze, and even catch our eyes in the best possible way. Including many of the Asian men we’ve seen competing in Rio.

Here are 4 of the attractive Asian male athletes that we’re watching at the 2016 Olympics (listed in no particular order):

Ning Zetao

(Image via http://news.cbg.cn/gndjj/2016/0812/4313461.shtml)
(Image via http://news.cbg.cn/gndjj/2016/0812/4313461.shtml)

Never mind that 23-year old Chinese swimmer Ning Zetao hasn’t medaled in a single event. His perfect physique and gorgeous face have had everyone crushing over him, even before the Olympics began! He inspired that famous headline “Forget Zika Virus — China’s Hottest Olympic Swimmer Is Giving The Internet Yellow Fever” (a headline that spurred some Internet frenzy – see the article “No, White People, You Can’t Take Away “Yellow Fever” from Asians”).

Anyhow, just peruse the many luscious photos of Ning Zetao online – and enjoy. 😉

Long Qingquan

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(Image via www.news.cn)

He’s totally ripped. He just won the gold medal in weightlifting. And he even set a world record. Meet 25-year-old Long Qingquan, your ultimate muscle man/weightlifting crush. Wouldn’t you love to run into him over those barbells?

Kohei Uchimura

9d87ba6c47fd629e497d4cc38e8450b2Speaking of hotties in the gym, there’s also the legendary 27-year old gymnast from Japan, Kohei Uchimura, who is a seven-time Olympic medalist. You have to love his boyish grin, his cool hair, and that chiseled physique. And since he’s also considered the greatest gymnast of all time, just imagine all the fun (horizontal and vertical) you could have with this guy. 😉

Joseph Schooling

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(Image via http://www.zwemza.com/?p=21996)

This 21-year-old swimmer from Singapore has dreamy brown eyes and a 100-watt smile. But more importantly, there’s something kind of sexy about not only getting the first-ever gold medal for your country but also beating celebrated Olympian Michael Phelps to do it.

Who else would you include on this list? Sound off in the comments!

UPDATE: I’d like to add the following names suggested by readers and fans: