Top athletes are inspired by any number of things, but for China's tennis medal hopeful Zheng Jie the biggest inspiration comes from hearing her hometown dialect.
"There isn't any better incentive for me than hearing fans cheer me on in my dialect," said the 25-year-old Zheng yesterday after she came back to beat Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-4, less than 18 hours after her two-hour-40-minute marathon against Agens Szavay on Monday.
"There were some moments that I felt extremely drained, not only physically but also mentally because the match against Szavay was exhausting.
"But it's really nice to hear fans cry my dialect at the Olympics. It makes me feel very comfortable, like I'm home again.
"We traveled a lot the whole year and we have to speak English in overseas tournaments, and when I'm back in China I speak Mandarin most of the time. There isn't any chance to speak my own dialect except for a few chats with (Chinese doubles player) Yan Zin, who is also from Sichuan.
"If I have to say what makes me fight until I win the match, it's hearing the fans cheering in my dialect on the court."
Some 3,000 fans packed into Court One to cheer on Zheng. She estimated maybe 10 percent of those came from Sichuan and the rest just picked up the dialect to cheer her on.
"I would like to say 'thank you' to all of them and I hope my victories here could bring joy to the people who suffered from the earthquake in my hometown," said Zheng, who donated all her earnings from Wimbledon to help the victims of the disaster.
"At this moment I am so proud of being an athlete from Sichuan. I want to show the toughness of a Sichuan girl."
Despite the encouraging crowd and tough victories, Zheng admitted that she was a bit overwhelmed by the pressure of playing in the Olympics at home.
"I started to feel it as soon as I stepped onto the court yesterday," she said. "There are no ads inside the stadium and you can see Olympic rings everywhere. They always remind me that this is the most important competition of my life."
Zheng is not the only Chinese "golden flower" to be intimidated. Peng Shuai, who bowed to Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-2 in the second round yesterday, said the Olympics is sometimes too big to fathom.
"I was joking with my friend, saying that it was like I have eaten something, and half of it is outside my mouth and half of it is inside," she said. "You really want to eat all of it, but you just cannot finish the bite, otherwise you will lose something.
"I just had this kind of feeling like I want to use all my strength to hit every single ball and take the win as soon as possible, but I know I have to be patient, if not, I will lose it all."
China's expectations for women's tennis are high after the historic doubles gold medal Li Ting and Sun Tiantian won in Athens.
Five players entered the main draw. After her singles loss, Peng will start her doubles run with Sun today.
Source: China Daily