Photo by news.shangdu
As the only WAG member who has won gold for China in two consecutive Olympics, Deng Linlin is kind enough to accept our interview invitation. Dynamic and confident in her life as she was in her gymnastics, Deng Linlin is eager to make her mark outside gymnastics by studying international relations in college, engaging in charitable work, and making public appearances in various events. 

On her 2008 Olympic Journey

Valerie: You got your first international medal in World Cup events in 2008. Did this make you feel more confident about making the Olympic Team? 

Linlin: Not at all. Internal competition was very tough at that time, it was extremely hard to get my name into the Olympic list. 

Valerie: As the dark horse of Team China, you impressed the world by performing a solid beam routine right after Cheng Fei fell in the TF. How did you gather yourself to pull that off? 

Linlin: At that point, I was very focused in my elements, and filtered all unnecessary thoughts. It was the same in all competitions. A gymnast could only learn to control herself through accumulating experience through each competition, big and small.

Valerie: In the TF, when the final score was up and China won gold, how did you feel? 

Linlin: I just felt happy, and I did not think about anything other than that. Maybe it was because that was my first big meet, I just thought I did what I was supposed to do. 

Valerie: How will you describe the 2008 WAG Team of China? 

Linlin: We were a fiercely strong team. That was why we won. Especially our big sister Cheng Fei, who was the only Olympian of the team. With her many experiences, she led us to claim that gold. As the younger teammates, the other five of us were great too. We all delivered our performances. TF is not just about one individual, but it is about the team, with the gymnasts, coaches, and those who work behind the scenes. 

Valerie: Your beam D score in 2008 was one of the highest in the world. Did you feel disappointed not making the beam finals? 

Linlin: Certainly there was some disappointment in that.  

On her tough road to her second Olympics

Valerie: Finally, in 2009, you won the world title on beam. Was that something expected? 

Linlin: I did not even think of it. I felt great being able to get into the finals, since I had a knee surgery at the end of 2008. My conditions in 2009 were not particularly well, so I did not anticipate a gold. 

Valerie: 2010-2011 was a hard phase for you, as you failed to defend your title in 2010 and did not make the world team in 2011. How did you overcome that? 

Linlin: In fact, being able to medal in 2010 was an accomplishment to me, because beam was very hard to compete. Besides, I was still yet to recover from my injury in 2010. Silver was already great for me. 

In 2011, my failure of not making the world team was a huge blow to me, I never expected this would happen. But that would not affect the 2012 Olympic selection. On the contrary, I felt that I was more prepared for 2012.

Valerie: You were the team captain in 2012. What were your duties as team captain? 

Linlin: Firstly, I had much more responsibility as a captain, because I did not just watch myself in training and in everyday life, but I also had to help my teammates. I had to boost the morale in competitions, and encourage others when they had difficulties. I also acted as a medium between the coaches and the gymnasts. 

Valerie: You are the only Chinese female gymnast who won gold in two consecutive Olympics. What does that mean to you? 

Linlin: I am very proud and happy to have achieved so. I was the only female gymnast winning gold in 2012, and that added much weight to the medal. I did not disappoint myself and my countrymen. Seeing the Chinese flag raising on the podium reminded me of my perseverance, and I thought to myself, “I have finally done it”. 

Valerie: Was the result expected? 

Linlin: No, it was not. I just hoped to get that gold. It was my goal after 2008. It could be viewed as a double insurance for two Chinese gymnasts to get into the beam finals, because beam is China’s strength. And up till the beam finals, we had not have any gold in WAG in London, so everyone hoped that a Chinese could be crowned Olympic Beam Champion. 

Valerie: Sui Lu was seen crying after the ranking was out. Were you two fierce competitors back at home?

Linlin: On the podium, even if we two were friends or teammates, we were rivals as well. Competitive sports are always cruel, because there is only one champion. 

Personal reflections and Work Ethic

Valerie: How were your two Olympic experiences different? 

Linlin: 2008 Olympics was my first huge competition, I was like a tiger cub and did not think a lot. I did three routines in the TF and became much more confident. In 2012 it was different because I was the team leader, I felt more weight on my shoulders. Also, 2012 was more about realizing my dreams. I knew 2012 would be my last Olympics, so I hoped I could win beam gold. I did it despite the difficulties. I conquered myself.

Valerie: Usually gymnasts retire right after winning Olympic gold. What made you compete till the 2013 National Games? 

Linlin: The National Games was a must for me. It was at the same level as the Olympics, though it was competed nationally while the Olympics was competed internationally. I did it in order to pay tribute to my provincial team’s effort in grooming me to become an Olympic champion, and I hoped to do something for my province before I retired. 

Valerie: Who was your favourite gymnast during your competitive years? 

Linlin: I admired Li Xiaopeng (China MAG, four-time Olympic champion and eight-time World champion). He was not only handsome, but more importantly, he had a commanding presence in the arena. He was a genius in my mind. 

Valerie: You had a tough career, and your motto “Do not compete with others for luck, but compete with others for perseverance” carried you through it. What does this motto mean to you?

Linlin: This motto has huge impact on me. In 2011 Worlds I unexpectedly failed to make the team, and that was a huge disappoint to me. I wrote this motto down in my social media to remind myself of my eventual goal, which was the 2012 Olympics. I quickly adjusted my mentality, and together with my coaches’ encouragement, I understood that the larger the disappointment, the stronger I would become.

Deng Linlin outside the gym

Valerie: We see you getting more and more involved in social activities recently, and you are even appointed into Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the Provincial level. What prompts you to engage more in society?

Linlin: I feel that my life should be more enriched, and this does not only limit to sports. No matter what I do, I can learn something and benefit. Every social engagement is an experience to improve myself, and I also hope to find my purpose in life through all these.

Valerie: What will Deng Linlin be in five years’ time?  

Linlin: In the coming five years, I hope I can graduate smoothly and study overseas. I also see myself becoming more mature, being exposed to richer experiences, and finding my next target in life. Let’s hope that I will be a step closer to my dream life! 

Valerie: The Chinese WAG team seemed not to be as well-received by the judges after 2008. Now as we are approaching Rio, what expectations do you have for the current Chinese WAG team? 

Linlin: I hope that my younger fellows can get good results. Basically it is all about how they perform under the pressure. Nevertheless, I hope they can gear up to their best.

Interview by Valerie Theodora Ko

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WOGymnastikA is a blog turned website which brings you the latest updates on women’s artistic gymnastics as well as exclusive interviews with your favorite gymnasts. If you are interested in joining our team, please contact us on wogymnastika@gmail.com .

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