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Olympic Swimmer Drops Bomb: Athletes Have Periods Too

author image Tiffany Lin
Tiffany Lin has been a writer and editor since 2008. Her book reviews, news pieces and features have appeared in Cat Fancy, Dog World, Romantic Homes, Cottages & Bungalows, Chickens, Kittens USA and Urban Farm magazines. Lin is currently the Food & Drink and Nutrition Editor for LIVESTRONG.COM.
Olympic Swimmer Drops Bomb: Athletes Have Periods Too
Fu Yuanhui recently made headlines when she openly discussed her period at the 2016 Olympics. Photo Credit: David Gray/Reuters

Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui of Hangzhou, China, recently broke the internet with her charmingly exuberant facial expressions. And her uninhibited spirit is making waves again.

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This week, Fu remade headlines when she broke a sporting taboo: candidly discussing her period. At the Olympics. On camera.

That’s pretty badass in our book.

After the 4x100m medley relay on Sunday — in which Fu’s team placed fourth — she was spotted hunched over in pain.

“I didn’t swim well enough this time,” Fu said to a reporter before apologizing to her teammates. “It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired. But this isn’t a reason. I still didn’t swim well enough.”

Fu Yuanhui may be an Olympic bronze medal winner, but she gets her period too.
Fu Yuanhui may be an Olympic bronze medal winner, but she gets her period too. Photo Credit:

Breaking Taboos One Period at a Time

Fu’s frank discussion about Aunt Flo is a rare occurrence in both the sporting world and China.

“A lot of [elite] sport coaches are men, and that makes it harder for women who don’t want to say ‘I’m on my menstrual cycle,’” reports a sports scientist to the BBC.

Tampons, moreover, are widely misunderstood by those living in China.

“There are many barriers to acceptance in China, starting with a lack of sex education,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Even young Chinese women say they know little about their body parts and fear (mistakenly) that tampons will break their hymen and rob them of their virginity.”

And while 42 percent of U.S. women use tampons, less than 2 percent of women in China use them, according to a survey.

Paving the Road for Open Discussions

Fu’s menstruation talk initially stirred up confusion on Weibo (a Chinese social-media site). Some users even wondered how she could swim while on her period.

Overall, however, she was largely met with support from fans.

One blogger wrote in Chinese: “[Menstruation] is an unspeakable issue in the public for women, but Fu actually talked about it in a live interview with CCTV,” translated Quartz. “That’s exactly her personality. Cool!”

And Fu’s openness about Mother Nature may have even sparked a larger discussion about sexism in China, reports Quartz. “Who tells you that virgins cannot use tampons,” another female blogger asked. “Do you guys really still think women need to save their virginity for men? It’s the 21st century now.”

What Do YOU Think?

What do you think about Fu’s frankness regarding her period? Have you ever thought about how menstruation could affect female athletes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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