Gronya Somerville: Australian Following in Footsteps of Badminton Ace Lin Dan

May 20, 2015
Editor: Kiki Liu

Gronya Somerville of Australia plays a match whilst wiping sweat from her brow.

Gronya Somerville, an Australian badminton player of Chinese decedent, gets a warm welcome among Chinese after the closing of the 14th Sudirman Cup held in south China's Guangdong Province from May 10-17, partly due to her good looks, connection with a Chinese historical figure and great ambition. [Xinhua]

Gronya Somerville, the Australian mixed-race badminton player who is of Chinese decedent, had already melted the hearts of Chinese viewers long before the closing of the 14th Sudirman Cup held in south China's Guangdong Province from May 10-17.

Many badminton fans had warmed to her eye-catching looks, her ambition, her Chinese family connection that links her to a well-known historical figure and her similarities with top national sportsman Lin Dan. So far she looks set to become the next female badminton icon.

Unexpected Notability

On behalf of the Australian badminton team, Somerville put in a strong performance at the competition to finish third in Group 3.

Early on, Australia set up a playoff for the top position in Group 3 after overwhelming victories against Italy (4-1) and Switzerland (3-2). Later, however, they did not make it over the line against their well-matched adversary Vietnam who pushed them out of contention.

As for Somerville herself, her remarkable performance in the women's doubles whilst leveling the score won the focus of local media attention. Somerville and her partner Renuga Veeran dominated the opening tie on May 11 after taking down their Lithuanian opponents 21-7 and 21-10 in just 19 minutes.

As soon as the competition was over, the player said that she will try her best to help her team drive on and they earned third place in Group 3. That is not the best result but a better one

Even though Somerville achieved modest results, she attracted the unexpected attention of both Chinese sponsor Li Ning Brand as well as the organizing committee.

The first day of the opening of the competition marked Somerville's 20th birthday. A stream of flowers and gifts from fans packed her room in a show of  love and expectation.

Such attention is rare for badminton players, and is normally reserved only for the sport's top icons. But Somerville, a rising but less reputed, non-Chinese player nonetheless bucked the trend. Why?

Somerville, who believed her badminton performance spoke louder than anything else, hopes that it is her technique rather than her appearance, figure and family background that can help her earn more attention.

Meanwhile, she wanted to back away from it and pay more attention to the competition

Born with Beauty and Famous Ancestry

Being the fifth-generation descendant of Kang Youwei (1858-1927), a prominent political reformer from the late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911), Somerville was identified to be the blood relative of Kang Tongwei (1879–1974).

Somerville's relative Kang Tongwei was said to have be an outstanding daughter among the reformer's 12 offspring and is considered to be the China's first female journalist, as a contributor and one of the founders of the pioneering Women's Journal.

According to Somerville, her mother is British whilst her father is Chinese. It was when she was 3-year-old that her mother told her about her prestigious family background.

Somerville knows little about Chinese history, but she came to learn that Kang Youwei was a great leader with an ambition to attempt to deepen the reform in China.

Furthermore, many of Kang' philosophies inspire her in regards to gender equality and love, says Somerville.

In Kang's opinion, marriage should be based on love and trust and not on a contract made by parents. Besides, Kang's proposal on rebuilding a new country and embracing news ideas also encourages her, even though his reforms turned out to be an ill-fated attempt at that time, stated Somerville.

Born in Melbourne in 1995, Somerville first captured the media's attention as a young player in 2012 at the Uber Cup in central China's Hubei Province. Somerville pointed out that she learned the Chinese language for many years after getting to know about her heritage from her mother.

Dream of Being Female Idol of "Lin Dan"

Nowadays, Somerville is ranked No. 128 in the Badminton World Federation Junior Rankings for women's doubles and No. 136 for mixed doubles, a great lift to her previous level.

As a representative of the national badminton team, Somerville has participated in many international competitions and now her goal is to represent Australia at the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Having started at the age of 12, Somerville has spoken of her ardent love of badminton and her hope to promote the sport among Australians.

In fact, Somerville's full name is Gronya Jasmine LingDan Somerville. LingDan is phonetically similar to the name of Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan. Furthermore, Somerville's older brother and sister's names also resemble Lin Dan, showing her family's great expectation in promoting her badminton career.

Somerville spoke of how she was glad to be praised as the female version of idol Lin Dan, as long as her achievements could make her a match and a rival to the global badminton legend.

Gronya Somerville takes a selfie after a match at the 14th Sudirman Cup in Dongguan city, Guangdong Province, on May 13. Somerville, an Australian badminton player of Chinese decedent, gets a warm welcome among Chinese after the closing of the 14th Sudirman Cup held in south China's Guangdong Province from May 10-17, partly due to her good looks, connection with a Chinese historical figure and great ambition. [Xinhua]

(Source: sports.qq.com/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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