Li Na won the 2014 Australian Open, capturing her second career Grand Slam title. After the win, Na, who joined the Chinese National Tennis Team in 1997 as a teenager, gave a funny and memorable acceptance speech. In her victory speech, Na thanked her agent and husband and made jokes, but did not thank her home country of China.
Since then, this video has surfaced, showing a Chinese government official slapping Li Na across the face while she accepted a bronze medal for doubles tennis at the 9th National Games of the People’s Republic of China in 2001. The video of the video is from “The Night of Li Na” in 2011 following her first Major victory. Na was 19 when she won the bronze.
After that, it’s not hard to understand why Na might have a complicated relationship with her home country. From TIME:
In 2008, Li broke with the national sports system, which had both created and threatened to destroy her career. Negotiating her exit was traumatic; Li had retired once before rather than take on China’s sports czars, who claimed the bulk of her winnings and expected obeisance for molding a 5-year-old into a future tennis ace.
Li too has been berated for her individualism and refusal to constantly play patriot. Last July, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily denigrated her “unbridled willfulness” and wondered “who will be there to restrain it?”
Since Na left the state-run Chinese sports system in 2008, she has had to pay her own way, but she has also made millions. Of which China has not gotten any.