Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai was on hand on Tuesday to watch China’s Eileen Gu as she won gold in the Big Air competition in Beijing to put the host nation top of the medal table. Peng, who could be seen in the stands wearing a black knit cap with the Olympic rings on it and a black coat with the Chinese flag on it, acknowledged a reporter’s greeting but refused to answer questions as he left the room. .
Peng’s wellbeing became a matter of global concern when she appeared to allege on social media in November that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past. After that post, which was quickly deleted, she disappeared from public view for almost three weeks.
During Tuesday morning’s competition, she sat among Olympic athletes and delegation members from several countries next to the finish area of Big Air Shougang, the distinctive venue built on the site of a former steelworks.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach visited the band members, including Peng, during the competition.
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“I just met her, she was sitting here in the stadium,” Bach told Reuters. “She was among the athletes, and I had the opportunity to meet a number of athletes from Switzerland, Germany and the United States,” he said.
A three-time Olympian, Peng’s presence during the Games was only a matter of speculation since the IOC announced plans to meet her in Beijing. The IOC, which last week said Peng would meet Bach inside the Olympic bubble, previously said Peng attended a curling competition.
Bach said Peng would soon leave the “closed loop”, which separates Olympic competitors and associated personnel from the Chinese public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“She was sitting there and we had the opportunity to talk and now she has to go into quarantine, she told me, she will now come out of the closed loop,” Bach said.
Peng has said little since his initial social media post and discussion of the scandal has been heavily censored in China’s tightly controlled cyberspace, with searches of Peng’s name on Weibo continuing to show no recent search results.
However, in an interview with French newspaper L’Equipe on Sunday at a hotel inside Beijing’s Olympic bubble, Peng denied making such allegations.
The World Tennis Association, which suspended its tournaments in China following Peng’s message, said Monday that Peng’s denial of the accusation did little to address concerns about his safety.
San Francisco-born Gu, China’s biggest star at the Games, said she was happy to hear of Peng’s attendance on Tuesday. “I’m so grateful that she’s happy and healthy and getting back to doing her things.”