Star Hurdler Wu Yanni, Known for Her Makeup and Tattoo, Silences Haters with a Major Win

The Paris-bound athlete triumphed in the 100-meters hurdles at China’s National Track & Field Championships

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6:36 PM HKT, Thu July 4, 2024 1 mins read

Both on and off the track, Wu Yanni is hard to miss. At the National Track and Field Championships hosted in Rizhao, Shandong, last Sunday, the track star blazed through the 100-meters hurdles in 12.74 seconds. She took home the gold, put down the best time in all of Asia this year, and broke her own personal best.

The 26-year-old athlete’s win quickly became a viral talking point online, with many netizens congratulating her and exclaiming in support that “ability proves everything” (实力证明一切, shílì zhèngmíng yíqìe). But what exactly does Wu have to prove?

Wu has attracted much attention and criticism after launching herself into the public eye at the World University Games last year. With a carefully made-up face, Wu walked onto the track with a confident stride, and approached the starting line with her signature pre-race move: swaggering, then pointing up towards the sky. Netizens were divided over Wu’s style and bold demeanor (she also has a tattoo on her right arm), some championing her for her beauty while others criticized her lack of seriousness.

wu yanni move

Wu Yanni performs her signature move. Animation via Shiyi.

The online attention took a more negative turn last October during the Hangzhou Asian Games, when Wu false started during the 100-meters hurdles. Although the referee reinstated Wu to complete the event, her second place finish was ultimately declared void. Wu contested the referee’s judgement and paraded around the track with a Chinese flag draped over herself, despite the loss.

Criticism over the fiasco flooded the internet, with many calling Wu “performative,” “flamboyant” and saying she was lacking in sportsmanship. Many others claimed that athletes should “stay in their lanes'' rather than looking for online virality and attracting conspicuous attention. Still others came out in support of Wu arguing that her confidence was a display of patriotism.

Wu’s win on Sunday seemed to quell much of the criticism. For one, she now has a high profile win under her belt, which for many, is proof enough of her hard work as a track athlete. One online user said: “I used to be a hater, now I’m impressed.”

After winning the event, Wu answered questions from the press and even covered one eye as her fake lashes had fallen off. “I want to show the prettiest, coolest, boldest, and most confident Wu Yanni,” she said. With Wu having already booked a spot in the Paris Olympics, more of the world may soon have a chance to see her at her best.

Banner image via Qi Lu Yi Dian.

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