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Posted by Eric Mu on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 2:06 PM
Luan Jujie, the 50-year-old Chinese-Canadian fencer, displayed a "patriotic" banner after she lost her second-round match against Hungary's Aida Mohamed in the women's individual foil on August 11.
Her action won cheers from newspapers nationwide, including the New Express and the Chinese Business View. The three Chinese characters on the banner,are a little ambiguous: they can be reasonably interpreted as a greeting, "Hello, homeland," or an affirmation, "Homeland is good". Luan explained that she prepared the banner for the opening ceremony on August 8, but "no banners were allowed in the stadium."
Luan played for China at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, winning a gold medal, China's only Olympic gold in fencing so far. A popular fictionalized version of her story, written by Xu Chi, made her a national hero and a household name back in the 80s.
In 1989, Luan immigrated to Canada and later received Canadian citizenship. She plays in the Beijing Olympic Games on behalf of her adopted country: Canada.
Luan is not the only athlete who left China to play for another country. One of the most famous overseas Chinese players, ping-pong player He Zhili, left the Chinese national team after refusing to throw matches to teammates. She married a Japanese national and competed under her husband's surname as Koyama Chire.
In the 1994 Asian Games she beat the Chinese athlete Deng Yaping, then the world-champion, and caused quite a bit controversy in China by shouting Japanese while competing and answering journalists' questions only in that language. Some Chinese people interpreted her actions as a clear signal of "betrayal".
It maybe interesting to wonder: what if Luan didn't fail in the second-round, but claimed the gold after beating a Chinese athelete? Would she be treated just like Koyama Chire, despite her banner?
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