Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming reveals he met with Peng Shuai, says she was in ‘pretty good condition’

At one point, there was some confusion if Yao said ‘she was fine that day’ or ‘we were all fine that day’

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 18 January 2022 11:50
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<p>President of Chinese Basketball Association Yao Ming (right) at a media event on 17 January</p>

President of Chinese Basketball Association Yao Ming (right) at a media event on 17 January

Chinese basketball legend and former NBA player Yao Ming has revealed that tennis star Peng Shuai was in “pretty good condition” when he met her last month, according to some reports.

At a news conference for the Beijing Winter Olympics, Yao broke his silence about his meeting with Peng at a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai in December.

“She was in pretty good condition that day. We were all chatting happily and asking a lot of questions about the sport since we weren’t familiar with it,” he said in his first comments about the meeting.

But according to the Associated Press, it was unclear if he said that Peng was ok. Some, including the translator for the news conference, heard Yao say “she was fine that day”, but others thought he said “we were all fine that day”.

The well-being and whereabouts of Peng, who is a three-time Olympian and former Wimbledon champion, became a matter of international concern following her public absence after she accused a top Chinese official of sexually assaulting her after a romantic relationship.

Yao, who is now president of the state-affiliated Chinese Basketball Association, said on Monday that he has known Peng for almost 20 years. But the basketball star did not address the sexual assault allegations.

“She’s a bit younger but we belong to the same generation of athletes,” he said. “We are both from the south ... and very intrigued by a winter sport competition in Shanghai – we felt like kids again.”

His latest comments came after pictures and videos of his meeting with Peng were splashed across social media. The two appeared to be talking and smiling in the pictures shared on Twitter, a platform blocked in China.

In a 1,600-word post on China’s social media platform Weibo on 2 November, Peng wrote: “Why did you come back and seek me out, take me to your home, and force me to have sex with you?” The post was addressed to former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and represented a significant step in the country’s #MeToo movement, but was quickly deleted from the social media platform.

Peng disappeared from public view shortly afterwards, sending shock waves across the sports community and international rights bodies. Amid speculation that she was under duress and being censored, she made some virtual appearances, including a video call with the International Olympic Committee. The Chinese state media’s foreign arm was also quick to report that Peng had withdrawn her accusations against Zhang. However, there were concerns about the authenticity of these statements.

About eight weeks later, Peng denied making any sexual assault accusations. “First of all, I want to emphasise something that is very important: I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me. I need to emphasise this point very clearly,” Peng told Singapore-based Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao in December.

The Olympic Games, which are set to open in three weeks from 4-20 February, have also been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the tennis player. Several sports personalities and the Women’s Tennis Association had raised concerns about the player and China’s handling of such cases.

The allegations also came amid reports of the Chinese government’s larger abuses of human rights, which led to a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics by the US and other western allies.

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