Chinese Swimmer Fu Yuanhui Had Her Period While Competing in the Olympics


We are all vulnerable to the ruthless whims of nature and bad timing. To borrow some unfortunate scenarios once set to a tune by Alanis Morissette: You could get stuck in a traffic jam when you're already late, or win the lottery and die the next day. 

But here's a new one for the list: You could get your (*Alanis singing voice*) pe-e-eer-iod/ during the Olympic Games.

This is precisely what happened to Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui in Rio Saturday. After her team finished in fourth place in the 4x100-meter medley relay, Fu opened up about her menstrual cycle in a post-race interview, Shanghaiist reported.

"My period came last night, and I'm really tired right now," she said. "But this isn't an excuse, I still did not swim as well as I should have."

This is, of course, not the first time a professional athlete has had to power through a period to compete in a professional sporting event. The Cut reminded readers that the same thing happened to tennis player Heather Watson last year during the Australian Open.

"It's really frustrating, especially at the one time I really do want all my energy and to be 100%," Watson said at the time. "But it happens and you're dealt with different cards on different days and I should have dealt with it better. It's a real shame and it sucks."

Acknowledging that athletic performance could suffer on account of a period is a fairly taboo move for female athletes. Given that menstruation is often cited by misogynists as "evidence" that women are inherently less capable than men, some feminists may object to an athlete's insinuation that her period had a negative impact on her performance in a sporting event.

(For what it's worth, research on the issue is limited and also split, with some studies confirming that it does indeed negatively affect athletic performance and other reports concluding that it doesn't make a difference.)

For women who want to minimize the chances that Aunt Flo visits during a competitive sporting event, though, there do seem to be some options.

In a recent Fusion article — titled "You're an Olympian. You have your period. Now what?" — Mayo Clinic gynecology professor Petra Casey said that some athletes choose to forego having a menstrual cycle altogether via period-stopping hormonal birth control.

"The mindset of 'I must have a period every month' is really changing quite a bit, and women are much more accepting of irregular menstrual periods, or no periods, and some people actually want no periods because of the convenience," Casey said. "It's very advantageous if you don't need pads when you're running or swimming. There are no health issues with that. In fact, it's quite healthy to not have a period for a long period of time."

For athletes like Fu who don't choose this path, it sounds like having a period during a superimportant sporting event is just one of those cases of life's supremely terrible timing. But hey: At least it's better than having ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife!