Five years ago, in Kazan, Russia, Ning Zetao, who was only 22 years old at the time, won the men's 100-meter freestyle gold medal in one fell swoop with a time of 47.84 and became the first 100-meter freestyle world champion in Asia.
"Ning Zetao, you are the flagship in the water!" The vocal comment of the TV commentary still echoed in my ears, including how many people expect the rise of China's short-distance swimming. The clear water of the Kazan Central Stadium has also been achieved. The brightest moment of Ning Zetao's career.
Data map: On August 6, 2015, Ning Zetao celebrated after the men's 100m freestyle final of the Kazan World Swimming Championships.
The years are long and time flows. Ning Zetao's "War of Conferring Gods" gradually disappeared in people's memory along with the rolling historical wheels. Now that he mentioned his name again, there was a feeling of a long absence.
On March 6th last year, on the day of Ning Zetao’s 26th birthday, the news of his retirement was like a thunder on the ground, which instantly detonated major social media.
At that time, it was only three months since he won the championship in 48.43 seconds in the Australian Queensland Championship 100 meters away. What's even more gratifying is that his performance far surpassed Shioura, the champion of the event in the Jakarta Asian Games.
Data map: On the evening of January 24, 2016, the 2015 "CCTV China Sports Man of the Year" awards ceremony was held in Beijing, and swimmer Ning Zetao won the best male athlete award. Photo by China News Agency reporter Tomita
Ning Zetao's fans are still full of expectations for his performance of "The Return of the King" in the Tokyo Olympics, but his hastily turned around suddenly shattered his beautiful vision.
Ning Zetao, who has left the swimming pool, rarely appears in the public eye. Looking through his social media, it is more of a certain sports brand that cooperates with the promotion and endorsement. He rarely shares his daily life.
Ning Zetao has stated many times that he will not enter the entertainment circle: "This is my bottom line, and also the bottom line of my family." Judging from the current situation, Ning Zetao has indeed fulfilled his original promise.
At the end of last month, Ning Zetao shared a video of playing golf. The 17-second screen attracted nearly 100,000 interactions. In the comments, Ning Zetao's fans are as active as usual, and many people urge him to speed up the frequency of updating Weibo.
Since Ning Zetao became famous at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, with his handsome appearance and impressive achievements, he has become the male god in the minds of many girls. It is no exaggeration to say that at the peak of Ning Zetao's career, wherever he goes, there is no shortage of "fans" support and media attention.
Data map: On the evening of September 4, 2017, Ning Zetao appeared in the men's 100m freestyle final at the Tianjin National Games. Many of his female fans came to the scene early to "set up", and a large poster was ready to cheer for him. Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhai Yujia
I still remember that before the Rio Olympics, Ning Zetao was surrounded by enthusiastic fans when he arrived at the airport. Crazy female fans wrote the idol’s name on their arms with lipstick, and some male fans didn’t ask for his autograph. And deeply regret.
Even after the Rio Olympics failed, Ning Zetao's fans stood firmly beside the idol. On his 24th birthday, fans spent huge sums of money to buy him an electronic screen in Times Square, New York.
The sports circle has never lacked criticism for the crazy behaviors of Ning Zetao fans.
Some people believe that the so-called fans ruined Ning Zetao's swimming talent. They used the standards of the entertainment industry to measure him, but they forgot that Ning Zetao's profession is an athlete, and competitive sports is a cruel Shura field.
A player without a score is like a fish without water. Regrettably, after the World Championships in Kazan, Ning Zetao has never produced outstanding results, which rationalizes this fanaticism.
Data map: The picture shows the evening of September 26, 2014, the Incheon Asian Games swimming competition ended at the Munha Natatorium. Ning Zetao showed off his gold medal. Image source: Visual China
It is undeniable that Ning Zetao at his peak is indeed a flag of China's short-distance swimming.
Winning four gold medals in the Incheon Asian Games is enough to prove his extraordinary strength, followed by the Kazan World Championships to make history, and then to the Rio Olympics to fall into the altar. In just three years, Ning Zetao's highlight moment was as gorgeous and short as a meteor.
The Kazan World Championships can be seen as a watershed in Ning Zetao's swimming career. How beautiful he was before, how helpless he turned and left after that.
With the rising popularity, Ning Zetao began to receive overwhelming advertising endorsements. But under the involvement of various interests, he fell into various conflicts with sponsors and swimming centers, and was once adjusted out of the national team.
Data map: On August 9, 2016, local time, in the men's 100m freestyle preliminaries of the Rio Olympic Games, Ning Zetao ushered in his personal debut and advanced to the semi-finals with a score of 48.57. Photo by China News Agency reporter Tomita
After the Rio Olympics, the CCTV documentary "Turning Point" was broadcast. Ning Zetao told the public about his experience before and after Rio, and said bluntly: "I see the ugliness of human nature." That year, he was only 23 years old.
Maybe at a young age but encountered all kinds of ups and downs, maybe some experience obliterated Ning Zetao's love of swimming, causing a rising star to leave the pool prematurely.
But the world is not “black or white”, as Ning Zetao’s teacher Ye Jin said in the documentary: “Athletes have athletes’ ideas, countries have national ideas, swimming center leaders, and they have swimming center leaders. Ideas.” From different positions, the views on the same incident are naturally very different.
Screenshot of CCTV documentary "Turning Point".
However, whether right or wrong, Ning Zetao is now far away from the whirlpool of public opinion.
Without the containment of the media and the magnifying glass of the outside world, he can only understand his perception of life in a few words on Weibo. Ning Zetao is also living and enjoying his life.
In a sense, "disappearing" also means liberation and freedom.
On his 27th birthday, Ning Zetao shared a reading experience after retiring: “Time goes by, insisting on being the best version of yourself, not making an inch or losing a bit. The true dignity in the heart should be an independent personality. And dignity, keep the soul free and clean at all times. The soul is noble, this is the greatest dignity! The sense of superiority is nothing more than the sense of inferiority walking in an inverted posture."
Taking a step back and saying goodbye to the clear water of the swimming pool, Ning Zetao began a new life. Although he has experienced great ups and downs, fortunately he is still young.
"Looking back, there has always been a bleak place, and there is no wind or rain, nor clear." I hope that in the days to come, he will be as open-minded and free as Su Shi, not thinking about the past, fearing the future, and bearing up on suffering. (Finish)