Peng Shuai emerges at Olympics, provides managed interview

BEIJING (AP) — Nothing to see right here, transfer on.

That was the message that Chinese language tennis participant Peng Shuai delivered Monday in a managed interview in Beijing that touched on sexual assault allegations she made in opposition to a former high-ranking member of China’s ruling Communist Get together. Her solutions — delivered in entrance of a Chinese language Olympic official — left unanswered questions on her well-being and what precisely occurred.

The interview with French sports activities newspaper L’Equipe and an announcement that Worldwide Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach met Peng for dinner this weekend appeared aimed toward allaying sustained worldwide considerations in regards to the three-time Olympian and former No. 1-ranked tennis doubles participant. Fears for Peng’s security have threatened to overshadow the Winter Olympics underway in Beijing.

Peng informed L’Equipe that the considerations have been the results of “an infinite misunderstanding.” However the format of the interview appeared to restrict follow-ups in regards to the allegations and their aftermath. L’Equipe mentioned it submitted questions prematurely, a precondition for the interview, but in addition bought to ask others that have been unplanned. A Chinese language Olympic committee official sat in on the dialogue, translating Peng’s feedback from Chinese language, the newspaper mentioned. It mentioned it additionally used an interpreter in Paris to make sure the accuracy of the feedback that it printed in French.

Giant components of the hour-long interview, carried out Sunday in a Beijing resort and arranged by China’s Olympic committee with the IOC’s assist, centered on Peng’s taking part in profession. At age 36, and after a number of knee surgical procedures, Peng mentioned she couldn’t envisage a return to tour-level skilled tennis. She hasn’t performed on the ladies’s tour since February of 2020.

The newspaper printed her feedback verbatim — which it mentioned was one other pre-condition for the interview — in question-and-answer kind. Pictures of Peng throughout the interview confirmed her sporting a purple tracksuit prime with “China” in Chinese language characters on the entrance.

L’Equipe requested Peng about sexual assault allegations that sparked the controversy in November. The allegations have been shortly scrubbed from her verified account on a number one Chinese language social media platform, Weibo. She subsequently dropped out of public view for some time. That led to “the place is Peng Shuai?” questions on-line and from gamers and followers outdoors of China, partially as a result of the nation has a historical past of disappearing folks who run afoul of its leaders.

In her prolonged submit, Peng wrote that Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the ruling Chinese language Communist Get together’s omnipotent Politburo Standing Committee, had compelled her to have intercourse regardless of repeated refusals. Her submit additionally mentioned that they had intercourse as soon as seven years in the past, and that she developed romantic emotions for him after that. Zhang has not commented on the accusation.

“Initially, I buried all this in my coronary heart,” she wrote. “Why would you even come discover me once more, take me to your home and pressure me and also you to have sexual relations?”

The interview with L’Equipe was her first sit-down dialogue with non-Chinese language-language media because the accusation. She walked again the unique submit.

“Sexual assault? I by no means mentioned that anybody made me undergo a sexual assault,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.

“This submit resulted in an infinite misunderstanding from the skin world,” she additionally mentioned. “My want is that the that means of this submit not be skewed.”

Requested by L’Equipe why the submit disappeared from Peng’s account, she mentioned: “I erased it.”

“Why? As a result of I needed to,” she added.

The plain follow-up query of why she posted within the first place wasn’t requested.

The IOC additionally labored Monday to defuse the state of affairs. It mentioned Bach dined with Peng on Saturday, a day after Chinese language President Xi Jinping opened the Winter Olympics. The IOC mentioned Peng additionally attended the China-Norway Olympic curling match with IOC member Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe.

Talking in his day by day Olympic press convention, IOC spokesman Mark Adams wouldn’t say whether or not the IOC believes Peng is talking freely or is below duress

“We’re a sporting group, and our job is to stay in touch along with her and, as we’ve defined up to now, to hold out private and quiet diplomacy, to communicate along with her, as we’ve achieved,” he mentioned. “I don’t suppose it’s for us to have the ability to to guage, in a method, simply because it’s not so that you can decide both.”

He mentioned the IOC can not judge whether or not there ought to be an investigation of her preliminary allegations.

“I believe we are able to say that we’re doing the whole lot we are able to to be sure that this case is appropriately,” he mentioned.

Within the interview with L’Equipe, Peng didn’t reply on to a query about whether or not she has been in bother with Chinese language authorities because the submit. As an alternative, she responded with a pat-sounding reply that echoed views typically expressed by the Chinese language authorities about sport and politics.

“I used to be to say to start with that feelings, sport and politics are three clearly separate issues,” the newspaper quoted her as saying. “My romantic issues, my non-public life, shouldn’t be combined with sport and politics.”

Requested what her life has been like because the November posting, she replied: “It’s appropriately: Nothing particular.”

Peng thanked fellow gamers who expressed considerations about her. They included 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who tweeted “we must not stay silent” in November and known as for an investigation.

However Peng additionally expressed bafflement.

“I want to know: Why a lot fear?” she requested. “I by no means disappeared. It’s merely that many individuals, like my pals and amongst them these from the IOC, despatched me messages and it was utterly not possible to answer so many messages.”

The ladies’s skilled tennis tour suspended all WTA tournaments in China due to considerations about Peng’s security. Peng informed L’Equipe {that a} WTA psychological well being counselling unit despatched her emails and a textual content message.

“That was very unfamiliar to me,” she mentioned. “Why would I want psychological assist or that kind of factor?”

WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon issued an announcement saying that whereas “it’s at all times good to see Peng Shuai, whether or not in an interview or attending the Olympic Video games,” this interplay with L’Equipe “doesn’t alleviate any of our considerations about her preliminary submit.”

Simon reiterated requires “a proper investigation by the suitable authorities and a chance for the WTA to satisfy with Peng — privately — to debate her state of affairs.”


AP journalist Sarah DiLorenzo contributed.


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