Fresh from becoming the oldest woman to win the Australian Open Chinese tennis star Li Na received a heroes welcome in her hometown of Wuhan City on Tuesday morning.
While there she attended a sate press and central government press conference where she praised the Chinese athletic system for helping make her a star, even though she won the title several years after leaving the programme. The Chinese press were quick to credit the national programme even though Li was allowed to quit it in 2008. According to the Xinhua News Agency, “The country took care of Li and cultivated her. The state is her sponsor.” It said.
Li who has been credited with the best acceptance speech ever at a major tennis tournament, who is now worth and estimated USD $40million sparked controversy back in 2011 when after winning the French Open she said “Don’t say I’m doing this for my country, I’m doing it for myself.”
On Tuesday she again created a storm by turning down the chance to appear on China’s Spring Festival Telethon on state broadcaster CCTV. Many believe it a great honour to be asked to appear on CCTV so her decision to politely opt not to appear has stunned many. Her reason though makes a great deal of sense. “I just want to spend Chinese New Year at home.”
It is a decision that has upset many in China, but were her popularity at an all time high outside her home country Li will not be losing a great deal of sleep over the issue.