Wu Yanni: glamour girl China champion hurdler with tattoo, makeup and attitude set to shine at Paris Olympics 2024

Profile | Wu Yanni: glamour girl China champion hurdler with tattoo, makeup and attitude set to shine at Paris Olympics 2024

During the women’s 100m hurdles at the Diamond League meet of 2024, held in Xiamen on China’s southeast coast, on April 20, Chinese star athlete Wu Yanni completed her first outdoor competition of the year with a time of 13.04 seconds.

Her performance fell short of expectations – her own and those of her fans.

That, and the fact she was wearing glitter and star-shaped makeup during the race, sparked an online backlash.

Cosmetics controversy

During the competition, Wu was positioned in the first lane. Her start was less than ideal and she fell behind early while passing the first hurdle and struggled to close the gap with her competitors.

She finished in a disappointing 10th place.

“The competitors were just too fast. I tried to keep up from the start, but a poor take-off threw off my rhythm, and it was too late to catch up,” Wu told Chinanews.com.

Wu Yanni, aims to get ahead in a hurdles race. She is also straightforward with her opinions. Photo: China News

Her decision to wear dramatic makeup during the race was also criticised.

“People come to see a race, not how pretty you look. They appreciate the process and the results,” some viewers said.

Wu explained that the traditional stereotype expects athletes to be “barefaced”, but she believes in everyone’s right to feel beautiful.

“No matter the outcome, I always prepare myself to look my best for each race. I do this out of respect for the audience, my fans, all participants, and the sport itself. It boosts my confidence and motivates me,” Wu said.

The statement led to a further backlash.

“Are the audience scapegoats? You can enjoy makeup because you like looking pretty, which is your right. But do not say it’s out of respect for the audience. They care about your performance, not your appearance,” one person said.

Who is she?

Wu reached the pinnacle of her career and fame in August last year at the FISU World University Games, formerly the Universiade, in Chengdu, the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan.

There she clocked 12.76 seconds in the women’s 100m hurdles, winning a silver medal and securing a ticket to the Paris Olympics.

Her performance was widely celebrated, with some fans even comparing her time of 12.76 seconds to the historic 12.88 seconds of Liu Xiang, China’s most famous 110m hurdler and a national athletics icon.

However, her career faced an immediate setback later at the Hangzhou Asian Games in the eastern province of Zhejiang on October 1, last year, when she was disqualified for a false start.

She downplayed the issue in an interview, saying: “Life is full of failures and challenges. What’s there to fear? Just move on. So, I went shopping the next day to forget about it. But many people online keep saying, ‘Yanni, do not false start again.’ What if I did? So what?”

Wu stands out from the crowd with her sparkly makeup and desire to “look beautiful” on the track. Photo: China News

Rebellious nature

Wu’s outspoken and rebellious personality, combined with her tattoo and unconventional appearance, often clash with traditional expectations, repeatedly drawing her into controversies.

In November last year, addressing rumours about plastic surgery, she admitted to having double eyelid surgery in an interview with Tencent News.

“Girls love to look beautiful and I want to make myself beautiful too. I cannot let some comments on the internet stop me from pursuing beauty,” she said.

The athlete also refuted claims that she was aiming to become an internet celebrity: “I’ve been in this sport for 11 years, working hard every day. Am I doing this to be an internet celebrity? No. Do doctors, lawyers and forensic scientists work years in their fields to become celebrities? Of course not.”



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