Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai re-emerges, call with IOC president

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai re-emerges with a video call to IOC president

shuai

On Sunday, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach spoke with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai for 30 minutes over video call. 

The IOC released a statement saying that the 35-year old was “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.”

“That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now,” the statement explained.

“Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.”

The IOC said the IOC President was joined by Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Emma Terho, who said she was “relieved to see that Shuai was doing fine,” according to the statement. 

Concerns over the whereabouts of Peng have continued to mount in recent days, with the sport’s governing body unable to contact her after she accused a top Chinese politician of sexual assault nearly two weeks ago.

On November 2, Pend accused the country’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her, and the allegations spread across Chinese social media site Weibo, then deleted from the platform. 

Her vanishing from the public for over two weeks prompted calls across the world for information on her whereabouts and wellbeing.

It also saw The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) make threats to pull all its tennis tournaments that are scheduled to be held in China.

Her first reappearance since the November 2 incident occurred on Sunday in the call with Bach, Terho, and IOC member Li Lingwei, a former vice-president of the Chinese Tennis Association. 

During the call, Bach invited Peng, Terho and Li to a dinner when he arrives in Beijing in January.

“[Shuai] gladly accepted”, the IOC reported. 

The IOC statement also quoted Terho, a retired ice hockey player from Finland, represents athletes on the IOC executive board.

“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” she said. 

“She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”

In the last few weeks, the IOC has faced harsh criticism for its relative silence on the matter of Peng’s well-being. UK prime minister Boris Johnson was also facing some pressure to toughen his stance towards China, with senior MPs urging for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is due to happen in February 2022. 

On Saturday, Andrea Gaudenzi, chair of the ATP,  said the issue was “bigger than tennis” and that the latest developments were deeply unsettling. 

Some of tennis’ biggest international stars, including Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic have publicly expressed their concerns over the whereabouts of Peng Shuai, with Osaka releasing a statement using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

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