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    Amid Controversy Over Diving Prodigy, Calls for End to Fandoms in Sports

    When diving prodigy Quan Hongchan lost out to a rival diver in a national competition, a passionate fan accused judges of giving her an unfair score. The outburst has sparked backlash against fandom culture in sports.
    Nov 29, 2023#sports

    State-run Xinhua News Agency has called for an end to fandom culture in sports after a fan accused a national diving competition of unfairly treating a star teen diver. The state news agency’s commentary comes on the back of a spate of recent scandals involving overzealous sports fans.

    The incident occurred at last week’s National Diving Championships in Wuhan, the capital of the central Hubei province, where Quan Hongchan, 16, was edged out by rival diver Chen Yuxi in the final of the 10-meter platform diving event.

    When Quan took questions from journalists following the event, a viral clip shows an unidentified spectator shouting over the diver, claiming that her scores were deliberately “pushed down” by judges.

    “Journalists, hear me out, Quan Hongchan shouldn’t have got that low of a score … you have to spread the word,” the spectator can be heard saying as Quan looks on. Another clip shows the diver asking the fan to stop shouting.

    Other fans of Quan soon took to social media to accuse the judges of bias, with some attacking Chen.

    Quan is one of the country’s most popular athletes, after rising to fame at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she won gold at just 14 years old — edging out Chen, who came second in the event.

    However, netizens have since condemned the spectator’s outburst. In a post on microblogging platform Weibo, retired Olympic diving champion He Chong criticized fans who blame external factors when their “idol” athletes fall short, and raised concerns about the impact of such behavior from fans on Quan’s career.

    In its commentary, Xinhua said that the “fandomization” of sports has brought “a hundred harms but zero benefits” as it contributes to stress for athletes and also undermines the reputation of sport, with the public increasingly focusing on controversial incidents. 

    The commentary called on internet platforms to curb online discussions of such incidents in the future. On Monday, the Chinese Olympic Committee reposted an article that also condemned such “fandom culture.”

    Fandom culture has exploded in China in recent years, with dedicated fans devoting huge amounts of money and time to spend on their favorite idols. Initially a neutral term, “fan circle,” or fanquan, has become an increasingly derogatory term as outrageous fan behavior has grabbed headlines, including rumors being spread to attack rival idols and using bots to boost their idols’ perceived popularity.

    There have been several incidents of extreme behavior from sports fans in the past year, including a fan who broke into table tennis star Fan Zhendong’s hotel room, and fans who allegedly illegally acquired the travel itinerary of national basketball team player Yang Shuyu.

    In 2021, China’s internet watchdog launched a nationwide campaign to curb fandom culture, which included the targeting of misinformation online. The same year, it banned celebrity ranking lists on all social media platforms, previously used by fans to compare the popularity of different idols.

    A fan of Quan surnamed Zheng, who was at the diving stadium in Wuhan, told Sixth Tone she was saddened to see Quan’s “fan circle” engaged in bitter arguments with other fan groups online.

    “If I could go back in time, I would drag (the shouting spectator) out of the scene,” said Zheng.

    Editor: Vincent Chow.

    (Header image: Quan Hongchan (left) talks to Chen Yuxi after the final of the 10-meter platform diving event at the 2023 National Diving Championships in Wuhan, Hubei province, Nov. 22, 2023. Xinhua)