It’s no secret that Olympic athletes are amazing. The inspiring dedication, the hours of practice, the personal sacrifices, all for that one moment chasing physical perfection on the world’s stage. And some of them do all of that while being on their period, as Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui reminded us on Sunday.
In a poolside conversation with a Chinese reporter following the 400-meter medley relay, during which Fu came in fourth place, she started off by apologizing to her teammates for what she considered a lousy performance.
“I didn’t swim well enough this time,” she said, panting and doubled over. When the reporter asked if she was experiencing stomach pain, Fu revealed something that had women everywhere wincing in sympathy.
“It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired, but this isn’t a reason, I still didn’t swim well enough.”
“We need incidents like this to raise the issue,” Georgie Bruinvels, a sports scientist, told BBC News. “A lot of [elite] sports coaches are men, and that makes it harder for women, who don’t want to say ‘I’m on my menstrual cycle.'”
As part of her work as a researcher at the Female Athlete Health Group, a collaborative project between St Mary’s University and University College London, Bruinvels surveyed over 1,800 female athletes. According to Bruinvels, “More than half of the sportswomen I surveyed said they felt their menstrual cycle affected their performance.”
This is why, for many, Fu’s candor is so refreshing.
My gold medal goes to Fu Yuanhui – for talking openly about her period | Rose George https://t.co/do6rumgCpx
— The Guardian (@guardian) August 16, 2016
Although it’s 2016, there’s still a taboo surrounding any discussion about menstruation, especially in the sports world. For this Olympic, it’s all in a day of shattering barriers, both physical and societal.