Peng Shuai has met Olympic chief Thomas Bach at the Beijing Winter Games, the IOC said Monday, while US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin suffered a bitter disappointment in her first attempt at gold in China.
The International Olympic Committee said tennis player Peng, who sparked global concern in November when she fell silent after alleging that a top Chinese politician had forced her into sex, dined with Bach on Saturday and watched curling.
Peng reappeared in public nearly three weeks after her allegation, and later withdrew it, insisting her online comments had been taken out of context. But fears for her safety and well-being remained.
Separately, in an interview published Monday with French sports daily L’Equipe, Peng repeated her denial.
“I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” said the former world number one doubles player.
Asked why she deleted the social media post containing the allegation, Peng said: “Because I wanted to.”
“There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post,” she said.
“I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it.”
‘Finished before it started’
Defending champion Shiffrin was among the favourites to retain the women’s giant slalom title and win a third Olympic gold medal of her career, but in bright morning sunshine she made an error near the top of her first run and slid out.
“There’s a huge disappointment, not even counting medals,” she said. “The day was finished basically before it even started.”
The American vowed to move on and quickly concentrate on Wednesday’s shorter technical event in which she is a four-time world champion.
“I’m not going to cry about this because that’s just wasting energy. My best chance for the next races is to move forward, to refocus, and I feel like I’m in a good place to do that.”
She can now watch her boyfriend, Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, attempt to win the men’s downhill later Monday, traditionally one of the most prestigious titles at any Winter Olympics.
The downhill had been due to take place on Sunday but was postponed because of gusty winds on the Yanqing course north of the Chinese capital.
Californian-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu made her Olympic bow, wearing the colours of China.
But the 18-year-old gave herself and the host nation a scare before qualifying for the women’s freeski final with her third and last jump at the spectacular Big Air venue.
In Sunday’s action, snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott made history after winning New Zealand’s first Winter Olympic gold.
Cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov became the first Russian to win an Olympic title at these Games — and then hit back at questions about Russia’s doping-tainted recent history in the sport.
Russia is under international sanctions after being found to have orchestrated mass doping at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, so Russians at the Beijing Games must compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
“You don’t just become an Olympic champion all of a sudden,” fumed Bolshunov, who won his first gold, adding to three previous silvers and a bronze.
Meanwhile, away from the sport, organisers admitted they had failed to produce enough panda souvenirs to keep up with demand.
Bing Dwen Dwen, a cuddly panda on ice skates, is the official mascot of the Beijing Games — but people in China are being turned away disappointed from gift shops.
Zhao Weidong, a spokesman for the local organising committee, blamed the shortage on the Lunar New Year holiday in China.
The nearly 3,000 athletes in Beijing are cocooned along with tens of thousands of volunteers, support staff and journalists inside a Covid-secure “bubble”. Everyone inside must wear face masks and take daily Covid tests.
There have been more than 363 positive cases in the bubble since January 23, according to official figures, among them an unknown number of competitors.