Li Na: Will Li Become More Popular Than Yao Ming in China?
Li Na's Star is Rising After Her Historic Accomplishment At Roland Garros
Li Na did something no Chinese person has ever done before: won a Grand Slam event. Can a woman become more popular than an injury-prone giant in a country where "Tiger Mom" might be the most famous woman?
In an article explaining why her star might eclipse Yao's, Xiaoni Chen of CNN writes, "To many Chinese, "China's number one sister" is a maverick. She has a tattoo, has dyed her hair many different colors and has even been known to yell at her husband in public."
Great players are not automatically sports figures. Muhammad Ali fought for civil rights, Magic Johnson is still fighting HIV. Li has the opportunity to become a sports figure in her own country through her unusual, progressive and quintessentially American actions. These figures are the ones who become popular.
Yao plays in the ever-popular NBA, but Li has the chance to take a stand.
After Li won the French Open, China rejoiced. Yao only played five games last season and figures to be a free agent after this season. His history of injuries, and the poor history of health for players his size don't bode well for a long stay at the top of China's sports popularity.
Li won't have much time at the top either. She is already 29 in a sport where the biggest stars can be teenagers. She wants to play for another two or three years, but eventually wants to have children.
Eclipsing Yao in China would be an accomplishment, but changing the mentality of at least some people in China is not unachievable for this woman who has already achieved so much.
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