NBA Star Yao Ming: Peng Shuai Was in 'Pretty Good Condition' When They Chatted Last Month - Reports
20:46 GMT 17.01.2022 (Updated: 20:51 GMT 17.01.2022)
© REUTERS / TWITTER @QINGQINGPARISChinese tennis player Peng Shuai, former NBA basketball player Yao Ming, sailboat racer Xu Lijia and retired Chinese table tennis player Wang Liqin are seen at an event in Shanghai, China in this still image uploaded to social media December 19, 2021.
© REUTERS / TWITTER @QINGQINGPARIS
In November, Peng accused a former Chinese vice premier of sexually assaulting her on her profile on the Chinese social network Weibo. The post was reportedly deleted and her accounts were also suspended from the platform. Since then, the tennis star has not been seen in public, prompting speculation about her location and well-being.
Chinese basketball star Yao Ming spoke out on Monday for the first time about his encounter with tennis sensation Peng Shuai last month, describing her as being in "pretty good condition," media reported upon the press conference for the upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing.
"She seemed well. We chatted merrily," the basketball player said about his impression of Peng at a cross-country skiing tournament they both attended last month in Shanghai.
In response to a CNN inquiry, Yao reportedly replied that he had known Peng for "almost 20 years."
"She's a bit younger but we belong to the same generation of athletes," he added. "We are both from the South ... and very intrigued by a winter sports competition in Shanghai -- we felt like kids again. We were all chatting happily and asking a lot of questions about the sport since we weren't familiar with it."
A Chinese state media journalist uploaded a photo and video of Yao and Peng together at a cross-country skiing excursion in Shanghai the day before on December 19, in which they appeared to be chatting and smiling.
A friend sent me this video showing Chinese tennis star player Peng Shuai talked with Yao Ming, one of the most beloved players in @NBA history, this morning at an event “FIS Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour’ in Shanghai. pic.twitter.com/Ebduv5rean— Qingqing_Chen (@qingqingparis) December 19, 2021
He did not, however, address the scandal that erupted last year after Peng, a former world No. 1 doubles player, claimed that Zhang Gaoli, 75, a former vice premier, had sexually assaulted her.
Instead, Yao told reporters less than three weeks before the Olympics that he expected China to win gold in speed skating and snowboarding, but he urged fans to be patient because the country is new to winter sports, according to reports.
Following Peng's allegations of sexual assault against the former top official, activists and politicians around the globe raised the alarm about her whereabouts.
The Women's Tennis Association halted competitions in China over concerns about Peng's safety, which have not been relieved by her public appearances, according to the organization. The scandal has placed a pall on Beijing's Winter Olympics.
Late last month, Peng reportedly refuted making sexual assault allegations at all and explained that she was not going to travel abroad anywhere in the future.
Yao, likely China's most famous athlete globally, was the face of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. He is now an ice and snow sports ambassador for China, having retired from basketball.