A top sports official in China who criticized an Olympic champion for thanking her parents before praising China for her achievements has triggered a hot discussion.
"Athletes should thank the country before they thank their parents after winning a gold medal," said Yu Zaiqing, deputy director of the China General Administration of Sport and vice chairman of the International Olympic Committee.
Yu made the remarks at the ongoing Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) meetings, Guangzhoubased Southern Metropolis Daily reported Monday.
The official didn't name any athlete. But his comments struck a chord with the public who felt he was referring to Chinese athlete Zhou Yang.
Zhou, 18, won a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in the women's short track speed skating 1,500 meters final.
In an interview with CCTV, Zhou said that she thought many things would change after winning the gold medal and she was confident that her achievements would lead to a better life for her parents.
"Some athletes did not express all their appreciation after winning a gold medal. There is nothing wrong with expressing appreciation for one's parents, but they should put the country in front of their parents because the country invested a lot for their sport career," said Yu.
Yu referred to athletes as "kids" and said that athletes should know their achievements were possible because of their country's support.
Yu added that ethics should be emphasized for athletes.
Zhou Jiwen, the athlete's father, didn't see things the same way.
"My daughter is too young and does not have much social experience. But her speech was honest and pure. Her achievement apparently belongs to the country," he said.
"Zhou Yang would never forget her country," said her mother Wang Shuying. "She works so hard in the national team and won the gold medal for the whole country."
Wang said that she would ask Zhou Yang to thank her country first next time, Changchunbased New Culture newspaper reported Monday.
Both of Zhou's parents are struggling with physical disabilities and do not have steady jobs.
Her mother sold handmade sweaters and her father ran a small welfare lottery station in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province.
The government in Changchun donated a twobedroom apartment valued at about 300,000 yuan ($43,947) to the family after she won the gold medal, the Xinhua News Agency reported last month.
The official's remarks triggered public debate.
In a poll conducted last week by China Youth Daily, 80 percent of 2,800 responders felt Zhou spoke from the heart. More than 45 percent said that only people who love their family could possibly love their country.
Many Internet users felt there was nothing improper with Zhou Yang's speech and felt athletes have a right to thank anyone first.
"The gold medal Zhou won for the country is the best thing to represent her appreciation for the country," someone wrote on qianlong.com.