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Peng Shuai’s ‘huge misunderstanding’ claim ‘does not alleviate our concerns’, insists WTA chief

Peng Shuai made a further public appearance at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Tuesday after describing reports over her disappearance as a ‘huge misunderstanding’

Jamie Braidwood
Tuesday 08 February 2022 10:04 GMT
Peng Shuai attended the women’s big air freestyle skiing final on Tuesday
Peng Shuai attended the women’s big air freestyle skiing final on Tuesday (Getty Images)

An interview given by Peng Shuai in which she described reports of her disappearance as a “huge misunderstanding” has been dismissed by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), who say their concerns over the Chinese tennis player have not been alleviated.

Shuai said in a social media post in November that she was forced to have sex with former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli but her post was swiftly deleted and her subsequent silence raised fears over her safety.

The former doubles world number one repeated her denial that the alleged incident took place in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe, which was published on Monday. Shuai was accompanied by a Chinese Olympic Committee official during the interview and her comments were translated to the newspaper.

Shuai attended the big air freestyle skiing final on Tuesday alongside the president of the International Olympic Committee [IOC] Thomas Bach, where she watched compatriot Eileen Gu win the gold medal, but the WTA has reiterated its concerns.

The WTA and its chairman Steve Simon led calls for transparency over Shuai’s safety and well-being when she disappeared and in December announced its decision to suspend hosting events in China.

Simon said in a statement released on Monday evening: “It’s always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games. However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2.

“To reiterate our view, Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader. As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss her situation.

“We continue to hold firm on our position and our thoughts remain with Peng Shuai.”

Peng Shuai alongside Thomas Bach at the Winter Olympics (Getty Images)

On Saturday, a statement released by the IOC said Peng had dinner on Saturday with Bach and the former chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Kirsty Coventry.

Shuai also attended Monday’s mixed curling match between China and Norway at the Winter Olympics and, according to the IOC, stated her intention to attend more events at the Games over the next two weeks. She also accepted an invitation to visit IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

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