Faces of the Games| The remarkable journey of Ye Shiwen
Ye is ready to compete at the final. [Photo/hangzhou2022.cn]
She was also undergoing physical changes as part of her growth and development. Her weight had increased substantially, and both factors took a toll on her performance. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, she couldn't even make it past the heats in the 400m individual medley and made a critical error in the 200m individual medley final, finishing eighth. Her once-glowing reputation had turned into one of widespread doubt.
"I was like a headless fly, constantly darting around in the dark, unable to find an exit," Ye recalled about her dark times. Her father, Ye Qingsong, who had quit his job to support her swimming career, was deeply concerned and urged her to quit. However, Ye, resilient as ever, refused. Instead, she turned to books for inspiration, reading Li Na's autobiography Rendezvous Alone and Michael Phelps' autobiography Beneath the Surface to find courage and a way to cope. It was during this period that she found her mentor, Xu Guoyi, who had always been by her side. Acting on Xu's advice, Ye temporarily set aside swimming and enrolled in Tsinghua University.
Unlike most athletes who choose sports-related majors when pursuing higher education, Ye opted for the more challenging field of law. Her father often mentioned in interviews that his daughter had a busy schedule and, due to her weaker academic foundation, had to spend more time studying than her peers just to keep up. During this time, she didn't neglect her swimming entirely, frequently training with the college swim team. Swimming at this point was not about gold medals; it was about relaxation and recreation amid the pressures of academics.
Gradually, Ye shed the overwhelming halo that once hung over her head, learning how to accept failure correctly. She also learned to think independently, and that iconic smile returned to her face. During her university years, she felt as though she had opened the door to a new world. She dropped the baggage of "I am an Olympic champion, I must win", and rediscovered her love for swimming, embracing the idea that "doing my best is enough".