news

An Olympic swimmer raced with her period and a lot of people are really, really confused.

After swimming in the final of the 4 x 100-metre medley on Sunday, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui squatted alone for a moment, with her hands clutching her abdomen.

When the poolside interviewer asked if she was okay, Fu responded; “I feel I didn’t swim well today. I let my teammates down…Because my period came yesterday, I’m feeling a bit tired, but this is not an excuse.”

Fu is of course one of our favourite athletes of the Rio Olympics, ever since she discovered mid interview that she had, in fact, won a bronze medal.

The Huffington Post labelled her ‘The Most Loveable Athlete’, and we swiftly agreed.

 Image via Getty. 
ADVERTISEMENT

 But today, we love her even more.
By casually mentioning her menstrual cycle on live television, she made a tremendous leap forward in normalising what is often considered a 'taboo' in female sport.

Fu was careful not to use her period as an 'excuse' (although, in our opinion, it's a legitimate one) continuing, "... it happens and you're dealt with different cards on different days and I should have dealt with it better. It's a real shame and it sucks."

And haven't we all been there.

But Fu's comments were only the beginning.

Many Chinese viewers took to Weibo, a social media site much like Twitter or Facebook, to express their confusion.

"Why was there no blood in the pool?" One commenter asked.

The hashtag #FuYuanhuiperiod then began trending.

Within a few hours, the search terms 'Fu Yuanhui period' had been entered half a million times.

And there was a reason why so many people in China were so fascinated by Fu's admission.

For some, this was the first they had heard of tampons.

Last year, Chinese manufacturers made 85 billion sanitary pads.

ADVERTISEMENT
 But tampons?

They didn't produce one.

There are more tampons in my handbag right now, than were produced in the whole of China last year. Image via iStock.

China's first tampon brand is expected to launch later this month.

According to Quartz, Chinese culture places "a high value on virginity" with many Chinese women undergoing hymen restoration surgery. It is believed that tampons interfere with a woman's hymen, and therefore tampons are not introduced into sex education.

For many Chinese women watching the interview, Fu's comments were a revelation.

In the past, we have reported how American women are "completely freaked out" by Australian tampons. It would seem that us women, despite having a pretty similar period, are dealing with them in very, very different ways.

Fu isn't the first female athlete to reference her period after a sporting performance. British tennis player Heather Watson said “I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things...” just after losing a first round match at the Australian Open last year.

For half the population, including many Olympic athletes, periods are a fact of life. And sometimes they bloody (pun intended) suck.

Good on Fu for talking about hers. And as a result, introducing the tampon as a talking point in Chinese culture.

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. You click, we help. Shooting star illustration.

Mamamia is funding 100 girls in school, every day.

So just by spending time with Mamamia, you’re helping educate girls, which is the best tool to lift them out of poverty.

Thanks for helping!

Light blue and pink butterfly illustration. Girl with pigtails sitting at desk writing in notebook. Row of four books.
Three hands holding books
00:00 / ???