SHANGHAI, July 12 (Xinhua) -- In China, athletes typically speak with the same reserve as the country's politicians, much to the dismay of the media.
However, two of China's brightest sports stars have made headlines for their candid humor and off-the-cuff remarks. Basketball star Yao Ming and tennis champ Li Na are leading the way for a new generation of brash, tough-talking Chinese athletes.
When asked about what strengths he has other than his height, Yao once responded "it would be a waste of talent if I didn't make full use of my height. It would be like having a computer with a Pentium IV processor, but choosing to use another computer with a Pentium II."
Yao is known for answering challenging questions in a witty fashion; his point-blank statements are sometimes referred to as "Yao Quotes." He often blends humor into conversations about his career, private life and team performance.
When asked about the future of his career, Yao quipped "money is not what I want from the NBA. My first-year salary will sustain my expenses for a lifetime." When queried about his English skill, Yao simply responded "I have learned how to say 'next question'."
In an interview with ESPN, Yao stated that the national anthem of the United States is his favorite song, "for I have to listen to it at least 82 times every year."
Yao's wit and humor have earned him a great deal of praise.
"It will be a pity if Yao chooses to use his intelligence only for basketball," said Cun Yongyuan, a well-known Chinese talkshow host.
NBA columnist Frank Bilinboli agreed. "He is a joyful, humorous, intelligent and hardworking young man. I enjoy talking to him," Bilinboli said.
2011 French Open singles champion Li Na has exhibited a similar propensity for wit, drawing compliments and praise from netizens and the media. After a hard-won game against Caroline Wozniacki during the Australian Open semi-finals, Li quipped "I didn't sleep well last night because my husband was snoring too loudly."
Li is quite fond of poking fun at her husband, who also acts as her personal trainer, during her interviews. "My husband said I could swipe his credit cards at will if I win (the championship)," she once said.
Li's candid quotes are referred to by Chinese netizens as "Na Talk." She has received a great deal of praise for both her performance on the court and her humorous and optimistic attitude. Her brand of humor represents a new image for Chinese athletes, and quite possibly for the country at large.
When asked about the source of her sense of humor, Li responded with typical bluntness. "I was born this way. I didn't need to learn how to be funny," she said.