Paper cutouts honor China’s Olympic idols
Every morning for two years, Deng Rongrong woke at 7 am to begin another day’s work on her “heroes”— 108 cut paper portraits of Chinese table tennis champions.
The 72-year-old former table tennis coach from Guizhou province devoted morethan 11 hours aday perfecting the album, which she calls The Glory of National Sport.
Deng, who had no previous art experience, took up paper cutting as a hobby after retiring in 2009. Tutored by other artists, she began with simple designs such as fish and butterflies.
“People were skeptical whethermy energetic ‘racket hands’ could hold a pair of scissors,” she said.
“But sports has taught me to be determined, patient and calm. It actually helped me succeed in paper cutting.”
She progressed from drawing simple signs of the zodiac to reproducing entire famous Chinese paintings, including a 12-meter-long version of Along the River During the Qingming Festival.
In 2012, Deng decided she wanted to pay tribute to her table tennis idols, but she worried that her artwork would not do them justice.
“They are all famous people. I feared my craftsmanship wasn’t good enough,” she said.
So, after completing a draft version of the portraits, Deng traveled to Beijing to meet all the champions she could, armed only with a map, a water bottle and her sketches.
“People thought I was crazy trying to find Olympic champions with a city map,” Deng said, but after three months of searching, she met with Qiu Zhonghui, WangNan, LiuWei and four other Olympic table tennis champions, who all praised her work.
Ma Lin, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, even wanted a copy to place next to his trophies.
With 108 paper portraits already under her belt, Deng’s next project — to create a 222-portrait album featuring all Chinese gold medalists since 1984 called China, Olympics and Glory — began in 2015.
“I wanted to commemorate the Olympic Games in my own way and cheer for our athletes,” she said.
Zhan Xiaoyong, Deng’s husband, researched the photos and gave advice, while she worked on the portraits.
“He is the mind and I am the hand, we are a perfect team,” said Deng, who took around three to seven hours to create each portrait, depending on how intricate it was.
Xu Haifeng, the first Chinese gold medalist, took Deng several days to complete.
“Sometimes the early photos are just not clear enough, and my husband and I go through several designs because we want every feature to be as precise as possible,” she said.
“As a former coach, I fully understand the dedication of every athlete. They are all heroes inmy eyes.”
China, Olympics and Glory has been on display in Xiamen Olympic Museum since in Fujian province early August.
of all Chinese gold medalists since 1984 are on display at the Xiamen Olympic Museum.
Zhang Zhihao contributed to this story.
Deng Rongrong with her latest cut-paper album at Xiamen Olympic Museum in Fujian province.