Censors step in after Weibo users savage Chinese figure-skater Zhu Yi over fall at Winter Olympics
China's censors appear to have stepped in after a naturalised US-born figure-skater was savaged online after falling flat on the ice and finishing last at the Beijing Games.
Nineteen-year-old Beverly Zhu — who was raised in the United States but now competes for China under the name Zhu Yi — suffered a meltdown in the women's short program team event on Sunday.
She fell twice during her Olympic debut, which nearly cost the Chinese team their place in the next round of the competition.
Zhu came last and the team dropped from third to fifth place.
"I'm upset and a little embarrassed," Zhu said after the event, wiping away tears.
"I felt a lot of pressure because I know everybody in China was pretty surprised with the selection for the women's singles and I just really wanted to show them what I was able to do it, but unfortunately I didn't."
There was little sympathy for Zhu, with the hashtag #ZhuYiFellOver reportedly gaining more than 230 million views on Chinese social media platform Weibo soon after the event.
Social media users slammed her nervous performance and questioned her selection for the team.
Zhu, who has been competing for China since 2018 after giving up her US citizenship, was picked for the Olympic team over 18-year-old Chen Hongyi.
"This is the result of replacing Chen Hongyi?" one Weibo user questioned.
"What athlete is not under pressure from the country and the people?"
Some posts brought up that Zhu didn't speak fluent Chinese, while others claimed she was favoured in selections because of her father, an award-winning artificial intelligence scientist.
But the barrage of online criticism was short-lived.
The hashtag appears to have been deactivated with searches not returning results.
Another hashtag — #ZhuYiMessedUp — has also dropped off Weibo, and Zhu's name is no longer ranked among the top 50 hashtags trending on the platform.
"The posts about her falls are all censored … I am really speechless," a Weibo user posted.
While the hashtags can no longer be found, footage of Zhu's fall is still being shared on the platform.
Mental health experts have repeatedly warned of the harm that can be done to athletes who are subjected to widespread social media abuse.
"The young girl is actually under quite a lot of pressure … is this really sensible?" another Weibo user wrote.
ABC News. (2022, February 7). Censors step in after Weibo users savage Chinese figure-skater Zhu Yi over fall at Winter Olympics. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-07/beverly-zhu-yi-china-figure-skater-beijing-winter-olympics/100809564