Swimmer Breaks Taboo, Tells World She Had Her Period At The Olympics…Because She’s Human

RIO DE JANEIRO – On Sunday, Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui did something kind of extraordinary: She told a TV interviewer she was menstruating.

After China finished 4th in the 4×100 relay, Fu was seen holding her stomach, and when asked if she was feeling ill, she put it plainly: “Because my period came yesterday, I’m feeling a bit weak, but this is not an excuse.”

Quartz explains how major such a simple statement is: Not only did she break “a great sporting taboo,” “it was the first time many Chinese people realized it is possible to swim while being on your period.” That it came from Fu made it all the more impactful.

China has, in the last week, fallen for the 20-year-old. Amid a sea of elite athletes whose “vocabulary is often robotically limited by the state parlance,” as the AP puts it, Fu has emerged as the foil.

An hour-long live-stream she did last Wednesday—during which she burped and ate cupcakes, reports Quartz—has been watched a staggering 11 million times, reports CNN.

Her post-race facial expressions and comments (like saying she used “primordial force” in Rio) are winning over the public. As for her period comment, the BBC reports it drove a lot of social media chatter—about Fu and about tampons, which are a rarity in China: A 2015 survey found 2% of women there use them, compared to four out of every 10 US women.

(A US startup has gotten $1 million in funding for a product that it calls an anti-tampon.)