Typical Asians

Melissa Wu, Silver Medallist Beijing 2008 Olympics (image via rio2016.olympics.com.au)

It’s been helluva week for #registeredbatshit stereotyping, but because this is the strengths-based section of this Asians to Watch Out For edition, I’m going to keep things nice.

Instead, I’m delighted to buck one of the more silly but regrettably long-lived stereotypes about Asians in Australia: Good at Maths, Bad at Sports.

Up there with How Come You All Look the Same and Sorry Your Parents Are So Conservative, Good at Maths, Bad at Sports sits on the sliding scale between naïvely ignorant and willfully racist, depending on how it is delivered.  And while Peril is generally more interested in the subtle critique of orientalism that allows the perpetual othering of “Asian” peoples in “Western” countries, there is still something fascinating about the way that sports hold such an incredible value in Australian dominant culture, and the presence or often absence of athletes of colour in high-profile Australian sports coverage.

For a country that has worked so concertedly to erase its Indigenous culture, sport has offered a place for Australians to partake in Durkheim-esque shared identity, collective rituals like football teams and horse races that stave off anomie or despair. As such, it is difficult to ignore sport in this country, and simplistic to imagine that there is a simple binary where arts are opposed to sports. Particularly in Australia, both are mechanisms by which we gather together to understand what it is to be in our culture, and how we inoculate ourselves against the desperate quality of separateness. It is also one of the clear vehicles for successful participation in dominant Australian culture.

Western Bulldogs’ player, Lin Jong (image via http://www.afl.com.au/)

So this list of sportspeople, while probably not as long as it could be, particularly if one were to do some kind of authoritative survey, still impresses me, tickles my fancy as a set of representations that refute emasculated and/or sexualised representations of Asian bodies, and brings a more multidimensional conception of “Asianness” to the foreground of Australia’s most cherished cultural practices.

Consider this me hitting the tennis ball over the net, should you wish to return the shot with a few more names – feel free to do so. Again, the list is in no order whatsoever and thanks to you, dear reader, for your picks.


Here is your #dreamteam:

  • Lisa Sthalekar. The Australian Women’s Cricketer of the Year 2007, 2008, winner of the Alan Border Medal, and first player to achieve the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Women’s One Day International. I cannot resist putting a YouTube clip of team mates recognising her massive career below. Consider it just a weird thing I did that time. She is, quite understandably, considered Australia’s greatest female all rounder.
  • Caleb Ewan, Australian road and track bicycle racer for Orica–BikeExchange. Cycling is one of the few sports I have actually watched on television and IRL, so I can confirm that the Pocket Rocket lives up to his name and his sprint position is truly wtf. Caleb’s not riding in this year’s Tour de France, so no need to stay up late nights, but this young cyclist is only building his experience and strength.
  • Jason Day. Um. World Number 1 Golfer. Arguably, we could leave the story here, but there is something about the golfer’s capacity to raise difficult issues such as family violence and bullying, or to deal with family tragedy with grace and privacy that continues to distinguish this golfer in my mind.
  • Richard Bai. Now it might seem like a little bit of a jump to move from Jason Day to someone you may not have personally heard of, but this is my nomination. Richard is a National Panel Referee officiating in Australia’s elite professional Women’s Basketball League. I have a soft spot for umpires and referees, because they are often exceptional sportspeople themselves, with elite fitness, and very rarely receive the pay packet that seems encourage some professional sportspeople to act like morons. For an activity that is all about heroes, referees are the unsung.
  • Melissa Wu, diver, Olympian and one of the more likely prospects for a medal at this year’s games. Veteran of the Olympics, Melissa also has two younger siblings who are up-and-coming weightlifters. I consider diving to be one of the anti-evolutionary sports  where only the catastrophically brave prevail. Good luck for Rio, Melissa.
  • Lin Jong, AFL player for the Western Bulldogs. Given that I am a nominal Bulldog supporter (but really, really nominal), this nomination caught me by surprise, as I was unaware that there was a Taiwanese/Timorese player in the AFL.  Given the profile of the football codes in Australia, and the challenging love-hate relationship that the Australian public can have with Indigenous players, it is exciting to see the growing diversity of its players and in turn spectator base. After a hiatus of almost a decade, I went to the MCG recently to watch the Hawthorn play Richmond and I could only marvel at the altered cultural composition of the fans. While the issue obviously warrants a more considered response, I’d go so far as to say it put your average Australian theatre audience to shame.

And two late votes from the crowd!

  • Les Fong, West Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee, played from 1973 to 1987, was the longest serving captain at West Perth, earning the nickname of “Captain Courageous”. A nickname that I am going to focus on over “Choppy”, which was also listed on his player profile. Because there’s no way I want to take away from being elected as the first rover in the West Perth Team of the Century just because I’m the uptight one who can’t let it go.
  • Richard Chee Quee – let me share Richard’s wiki bio in full, because it is pure class. Richard Chee Quee is a former first-class cricketer.Chee Quee is notable for being the second player of Chinese origin to play first-class cricket in Australia after Hunter Poon in 1923. A cult figure and dashing bat, he played from 1992-1993 to 2000-2001 for New South Wales. Today, he is the lead vocalist in the rock band Six & Out. He also takes part in coaching clinics run by the Australian Cricket Association Masters team. See that – CULT FIGURE. This is also possibly the best headline ever about the impact of Richard’s dashing bat on the sport.

Now go revel in Lisa’s farewell video.

Author: Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer and community radio broadcaster. Eleanor Jackson is a former Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of Peril and currently Chair of the Board.

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