Olympics: Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui in spotlight again, this time for breaking period taboo

China's Fu Yuanhui competes in the Women's 100m Backstroke Final swimming event on August 8.
China's Fu Yuanhui competes in the Women's 100m Backstroke Final swimming event on August 8. PHOTO: AFP

Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui is once more in the spotlight for her frankness at a poolside interview.

Fu, 20, became a media darling after her visible excitement - and flustered facial expressions - during interviews with CCTV News after she reached the 100m backstroke final and took the bronze on Aug 8.

This time, Fu is being lauded for her forthrightness in discussing the fatigue she faced competing while having her period.

The Chinese women's team came in fourth at the women's 4x100m medley relay on Sunday (Aug 14), clocking in just 0.17 sec behind third-placed Denmark.

Fu came out of the pool only to bend over in pain, prompting a CCTV News reporter to ask how she was doing.

"It's because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired," Fu replied, according to the BBC. "But this isn't a reason, I still didn't swim well enough."

She apologised to her teammates Lu Ying, Shi Jinglin and Zhu Menghui for her performance.

Though the Chinese team did not clinch a medal in the medley relay event, Fu won praise online for putting the spotlight on an issue that is rarely talked about in public due to conservative cultural taboos.

"It is a normal physiological phenomenon, so why can't we mention it? Fu Yuanhui is awesome!" wrote one user of Chinese microblogging site Weibo, according to The Guardian.

The BBC quoted another fan as saying: "Someone accused Fu of lying, asking how she could have gone in the water on her period. Chinese people have prejudices about tampons - as a woman over 30, I'd been ignorant, and full of fear, about tampons until now too."

This is not the first time Fu has gained attention for being open with the media about how sports affects athletes' bodies.

After the FinaWorld Championships in 2015, where Fu won gold in the 50m backstroke, a video circulated showing her wincing in pain after she accidentally snapped the strap of her swimsuit against her skin.

Fu later told the press, while laughing uproariously, that the swimsuits were "too tight" and compressed women's chests.