China vs USA: New Cold War at the Olympics?

Ye Shewin. Heard of the name? By now you probably have. The young Chinese swimmer recently blew everyone out of the water when she set a new Olympic record in the women’s 200 metre individual medley, and claimed her second gold medal of the Games.

This after American golden boy Michael Phelps won his record 19th Olympic medal, the most ever won by a single athlete.

Controversy, naturally, arose–but not because of the Phelps win. The 16-year-old Ye won her first medal over the weekend in the 400 metre medley, when she annhilated the previous world record, smashing through the final 50 metres of the race faster than the other American golden boy, Ryan Lochte.

The CBC was quick to point out a new Cold War rivalry, after American coach John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, called foul and suggested perhaps all was not quite right on team Ye:

“‘We want to be very careful about calling it doping,’ Leonard said on the weekend.

‘The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, “unbelievable”, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved.

That last 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers.’

 … Around the world, and here in London, Chinese sports fans were outraged, and took the social media universe by storm. After a few days WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, weighed in to say that Ye had never failed any of its tests.

Eventually, other coaches and swim pundits added their voices: Ye was battling from behind and with her strongest stroke when she swam that furious 50 m on the weekend; Lochte was ahead and perhaps coasting a bit in his heat.

Lord Colin Moynihan, the chair of the British Olympic Committee this week tried to lay to rest any further controversy over Ye’s performance.

‘She’s clean. That’s the end of the story,’ he said. ‘Ye Shiwen deserves recognition for her talent.'”

Now Chinese coaches are blasting Olympic officials for what they call a “Western bias”, according to NBC:

“One Chinese account of the press conference noted angrily that toward the end, one Western reporter directly asked Ye, ‘I’d like to ask you if you doped to win that gold medal. Please answer me directly with a Yes or ‘No.’

According to the report, Ye looked the reporter directly in the eye and shot back, ‘Absolutely no! Why am I the only one who is suspected of cheating when other foreign athletes also win multiple gold medals?’

The tone of the reporter’s question led to complaints from the furious Chinese press, many of whom felt professional and etiquette boundaries were breached.

‘A 16-year-old genius not only can’t enjoy her victory, but also has to be subjected to this interrogation,’ one Chinese journalist reportedly said. ‘As Chinese journalists, we have the right to protest.’

One person who did protest was Ye’s father, Ye Qingsong, who told a local Chinese news website here that, ‘The Western media have always been arrogant, and suspicious of Chinese people.'”

What do you think? Was Ye doping, or just a phenomenal new athlete making the Americans nervous?

Read more on China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

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