Know thyself, as the Socratic maxim etched onto the Temple of Apollo at Delphi goes.
Sun Yang, the most decorated male swimmer in Chinese Olympic history — infamous for his bad-boy antics, competitive spirit, and emotional vulnerability — was in Suzhou last week defending his master’s thesis. The topic was not Socrates, but a figure that will surely loom just as large in the annals of history: Sun Yang himself. Titled “An analysis on the skills of the Men’s 200m freestyle champion at the 31st Olympics,” according to a Global Times report, Sun’s thesis took the navel-gazing tendency in academia to its furthest possible extreme.
Currently studying physical education and training at Suzhou University during a lull in competition, Sun was the gold medalist in the 200m freestyle event at the Rio Olympics.
His thesis appears not to have addressed the controversy from that same Olympics surrounding the 400m freestyle heat, which Sun lost to Australian rival Mack “not Mark” Horton. Before that race, Sun had allegedly splashed Horton in the warm-up pool, prompting Horton to call Sun a “drug cheat,” a reference to Sun’s three-month suspension in 2014 for using a banned substance.
Sun wept at the slight in a post-race interview. For their part, Chinese netizens furnished the viral hashtag #Don’tCrySunYang and flamed Horton’s social media profiles in a hive-like rage so furious that Horton disabled comments on his accounts. One CCTV commentator went so far as to suggest that Horton was mentally unstable and cautioned against calling him a bastard “because that would be an insult to bastards.”
Netizens were just as supportive of Sun’s thesis topic. “He is definitely entitled to research his own success,” one Guancha.cn user posted, according to the Global Times.
[Images via CCTV / Xinhua]