China’s ‘Basketball Grandma’ fighting aging and poverty becomes Internet star
Zhu Shumei, 76, has captured Chinese net users’ hearts lately. Standing only 150 cm tall (5 ft.), the hunchbacked granny plays basketball every day on a university campus in Jinhua, Zhejiang province in East China. After photos of her exercising got viral on Chinese social media, netizens gave her a lovely nickname: “Basketball Grandma.”
Zhu has been playing basketball since 20 years ago. It is said that she almost never misses a shot. In addition to basketball, her daily exercise routines also include running, parallel bars and pole-climbing.
A student of Zhejiang Normal University, impressed by the sight of the energetic and sporty grandma, took pictures of her and uploaded them to Sina Weibo, Chinese hybrid of Facebook and Twitter, which immediately attracted a huge amount of attention. Many young net users said they were touched by the fighting spirits of the granny and felt ashamed of themselves.
It is later learned that Zhu’s life is never as sunny as she seems. At 53, she was divorced by her ex-husband and had to take care of her mentally-ill daughter all by herself. Her income, all of which comes from the subsistance allowances meted out by the government, is so meager (437 yuan, or US$70, per month) and makes her so insecure about her future, that she started to exercise as much as possibly to avoid getting sick.
Zhu was told by her local community that she would be entitled to a monthly pension of 1,100 yuan (US$175) if only she could make a 31,428-yuan (US$5,000) down payment to qualify for the pension program. She truly wished to join the program, however, the amount of money is far beyond what she could possibly afford.
After the students at the university learned about her financial situation, they decided to help her by raising money on the internet. The good news is, not only have donations poured in, they have also found her a major contributor who is generous enough to improve her living conditions.
It is said that Grandma Zhu has a 100-percent field goal percentage, although she said she has been put under a lot of pressure to prove herself as a great shooter after she became famous.
The Spalding basketball in her hand, which cost her more than her monthly income, is her baby. In the summer, she gives it a cold bath every time before going to the court so that it will not explode from heat.
She is 76 and only 150 cm tall because of having a hunchback.
She has never owned a house of her own and has been having trouble paying the rent for her little dwelling unit, living off on a monthly allowance of 437 yuan, or US$70.
Any idea why she exercises so hard? To avoid getting sick, because any illness leads to medical bills she can never pay off.
Climbing the pole is a piece of cake to her.
She also runs at least 10 laps on the 400-meter track every day.
Parallel bars, chin-up bars…Nothing on the field daunts her.
After her story was revealed on the web, she has become such a head-turner that she has to “hide” her basketball in a black garbage bag on her way to the basketball court.
Grandma Zhu gets home from her practice.
Her home is quite shabby.
Grandma Zhu goes to a farmers’ market for grocery shopping.
Smile is her attitude toward life.