Deng Yaping is not a household name outside China. (In fact if you Google her name the intuitive search engine asks if you mean Deng Xiaoping.) But Yaping is one of China’s greatest Olympians having won four gold medals, despite her diminutive height. In contrast her public stature could not be much larger, illustrated by the fact that she was voted Chinese female athlete of the century.
What may distinguish this athlete even more, are her non-athletic achievements. Retiring at the age of 24, she has an undergrad degree at one of China’s most prestigious Universities, and a Masters at the University of Nottingham ( a University which has fostered it’s links to China, and was the founder of the first Sino-Foreign university in China with approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education) and is now working on a PhD at Cambridge. And in a couple of weeks Yaping will celebrate her 35th birthday – as long as responsibilities as a member of the IOC and deputy manager of the Olympic village don’t come in the way, of course.
So, it could be said that there are few people more entitled to speak about the pressures that the Chinese stars will be facing in the home Olympics this summer. This has been discussed here before in reference to Liu Xiang, but it can rightly be related to the table tennis players too, who will have even higher expectations on them.
This story was picked up by TIME. To see a video interview with Deng Yaping, filmed last Autumn, visit CNN.