Peng Shuai denies she was sexually assaulted in first interview since she went missing
The tennis star also claimed she 'never went missing'
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied her own claims that she was sexually assaulted by the country's former vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, in her first interview with foreign media since she went missing.
Shuai, 36, claimed in a now-deleted social media post last year that she had been forced into sex by Gaoli, which then led to her disappearance from the public eye for weeks.
However during an interview with L'Equipe - her first with media outside of the Chinese state since she went missing - she denied her previous claims and said that she "never disappeared."
Shuai was also accompanied by a Chinese Olympic committee official, who acted as a translator for the tennis star despite Shuai being able to speak English, also said that there had been an "enormous misunderstanding" from the public about her comments.
The French outlet were requited to submit all their questions to a Chinese official but were allowed a translator of their own in order to double-check the transactions made by the Chinese translator were accurate.
She said: "First of all, I would like to thank all the ATP and WTA players, all the athletes and all the personalities in large numbers who cared about me.
"But I didn't think there would be such concern and I would like to know: why such concern?'
"I never said anyone sexually assaulted me in any way.
"I never disappeared, everyone could see me. It's just that a lot of people, like my friends, including from the IOC, messaged me, and it was quite impossible to reply to so many messages."
[ENGLISH VERSION] For the first time since her public reappearance and the turmoil caused by her 2 November message, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai talks to an international and independent medium. https://t.co/8ygjVnKZOz pic.twitter.com/cGA57iwhDA
— L'ÉQUIPE (@lequipe) February 6, 2022
Shuai then added: "But with my close friends, I always remained in close contact. I discussed with them, answered their emails, I also discussed with the WTA.
"But, at the end of the year, their website's communication computer was changed and many players had difficulty logging in at that time.
"But we always kept in touch with colleagues. That's why I don't know why the information that I had disappeared, spread.
"This post has given rise to a huge misunderstanding from the outside world. I hope that we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don't add more hype on this."
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