Her duck hairpin, pearl manicure and arms-heart gesture immediately trended on Chinese social media after Chinese shooter Yang Qian won the first gold of the Tokyo Olympics with a record-breaking score.
Yang's “lucky charm,” as she dubbed her fashion accessories, showed a student athlete’s charm that extended beyond the mere winning of a sports contest. They showcased a simple, confident self.
China's Gen Z athletes at the Tokyo Olympics have stunned the world not simply for their performances but for their positive vibes: vivacious, committed and respectful.
Whether it was the butterfly hair clip sported by runner Wang Chunyu or the cool face of gymnast Liu Yang on the rings, the athletes' individuality caught public attention.
And so it is outside the Games. Many rising sports stars are sharing their daily lives on social media, offering a new way to interact with the audience during the socially distanced games.
Weightlifter Li Wenwen and swimmer Wang Shun posted workout videos during hotel quarantine after returning from Tokyo, inspiring thousands to exercise.
Chinese Olympians have also won praise for respecting the competition and competitors, showing a sporting spirit of friendship and solidarity.
Badminton players Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan hugged their Indonesian opponents Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu as the Indonesian pair shed tears of joy in victory.
Butterfly specialist Zhang Yufei said: “See you next year!” and hugged Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee who conquered leukemia to attend the Olympics.
The Chinese public warmed to Team China and appreciated their many individual efforts. The social media audience cheered for triumphs and also sent messages of encouragement to those who had not performed at their best.
The public was enchanted by the athletes’ performances and their charms, seeing beyond ruthless competition to a shared humanity that matters on and off the field.
All of the above examples offer strong evidence that break the stereotypes of China’s sports system and institutions.
Many have accused China of a “medal-first” mentality in sports competition. But it can be seen from the Games that the athletes were not just fighting for good scores as any athlete does, but also chasing their dreams.
Whether or not the dream-chasers won their medals, the Chinese public wholeheartedly supported them.
Some argue China’s sports system is cruel and isolated. But the young, social media-savvy athletes continue to share their cute and diverse personalities.
The strengths of sportsmanship and the beauty of humanity of the Chinese younger generation was on show at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sports retained its magic for uniting people with hope and resilience in the shadow of the pandemic.
All eyes turn now to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
It is expected next year that Chinese athletes will again shine with their youthful spirit and that Beijing 2022 will harness world Olympic solidarity.