Beijing, China – Chinese gymnist Yang Linlin has had an Olympic experience for the ages. On Monday, Linlin won the gold for her country in the uneven bars exercise. On Tuesday, she got her first period.
“I am so excited. I have been waiting my whole life for this,” said Linlin, speaking through an interpreter. “And then, to win the gold on top of that…it’s just surreal.”
Linlin admits being a little bit jealous in the past of some of the other young girls on the Chinese gymnastics team. “We’ve been together in the same compound since we were three and four years old – we’re kind of like family,” Linlin said, referring to China’s grooming process for potential athletes. “It was hard seeing some of the other girls do comlex pirouettes and multiple releases before I could,” confesses Linlin. “But it was excruciating when they got their first visit from Aunt Flo before I did.”
However, during the Games of the 29th Olympiad, everything changed for Yang Linlin. Throughout the preliminaries, Linlin could tell that she was on the verge of something big. “I stuck a dismount on a routine with a huge start value,” she reminisced. “And, the whole time, I felt like something strange was happening to my body.” Sure enough, Linlin outswung the competition, won the gold medal, and the next day, experienced the onset of menses.
As a reward for winning the gold medal, the Chinese government and her coaches are allowing Linlin to return home to visit her family for a week. “I am so excited,” says the young girl, who isn’t so young that she is ineligible for Olympic gymnastic competition. “I haven’t seen my family in four and a half years.”
The gold means so much for the Linlin family that Yang expects they will spend a lot of time just examining the medal. But not the whole time. “Mom has promised to take me out shopping for a training bra,” Linlin said. “That’s what really excites me!”