A “high-level” attempt to persuade Peng Shuai to make an Olympic swim during the 2020 Games in Tokyo didn’t work, according to a statement issued Friday by an official of the Olympic Committee of China.
Peng is a “traditionally dominant woman” in swimming with five Olympic medals and 18 world titles and has been a player since only seventh grade. She finished out of the medals in the 2012 London Games, though, and a number of Chinese media outlets have taken notice of speculation she won’t be attending the 2020 Games, which are being hosted by the country for the first time.
However, in a statement issued Friday, COC head Liu Zhijun said: “In response to a query from a foreign news outlet, COC was able to confirm that at least 30 minutes of video conference with top COC officials and Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai was successfully conducted last night. The video conference-led program was long expected and finalized. And it played an important role in preventing and confronting negative public opinion towards COC.”
“Last night’s exchange between Peng Shuai and representatives of the COC and the Chinese swimming team was quite lengthy, and we certainly discussed and shared our wish to reach an agreement with Peng Shuai,” Chinese swimmer Huang Xiaomei said, according to the statement. “We’ve learned that Peng Shuai has decided to attend the 2020 Olympics for us.”
We weren’t always on the same page. — David Urlt, spokesperson for Olympic Committee of China
The statement noted that the discussion was “not conducted by telephone,” and noted that Xu Daou, head of China’s swimming team, called Peng Shuai. “We weren’t always on the same page, but in the face of what appeared to be baseless information from the media, we’ve worked together to determine that there is no reason Peng Shuai should stop attending the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Peng Shuai said in an interview with the Communist Party daily Global Times, that “the Chinese swimming team is not behind her. We’re (in full) support of her. It’s a team decision,” as cited by the statement from the COC.
Indeed, the Olympic committee’s statement said Peng’s team in Chinese swimming “has expressed appreciation for the efforts of the COC. The Chinese swimming team will continue its cooperation with the COC and also honor the COC’s trust.”
Peng has been in the spotlight in recent days, after a number of Chinese media outlets reported she wouldn’t be attending the Tokyo Games. As The Washington Post’s Julie Tate reported on Thursday, Peng Shuai was involved in a crash in Dubai and had told her China coach she “won’t be able to meet all the commitments” because of the accident, and according to the Chinese swimming team’s sports doctor, Pang Xuejun, Peng spoke to him in a typical reaction to the news.
“She’s very sad, shocked and baffled,” Pang told The Washington Post. “She says ‘you know, I want to go to the Games, but there is one crisis at home.’ ”
Both she and Pang both say it’s not fair to blame her for the car accident, which occurred after a night of drinking, and insists that Peng wasn’t intoxicated. However, while her coach says, “she felt terrible” after the accident, she was not able to return to China. Pang recalled, “She says: ‘Now I feel guilty, and I don’t have the money.’ ”
She made her final decision Friday.
Read the full statement from the COC here.