Donghua Li

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Donghua Li
— Gymnast —
Donghua Li 2008.jpg
Donghua Li in 2008
Personal information
Full name Donghua Li
Country represented   Switzerland
Former countries represented  China
Born (1967-12-10) December 10, 1967 (age 48)
Chengdu, China
Discipline Men's artistic gymnastics
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Li.

Donghua Li (Chinese: 李东华, Pinyin: Lǐ Dōng Huá, born December 10, 1967 in Chengdu, China) is a Swiss gymnast from China. Donghua was a successful gymnast from China. He met a Swiss girl named Esperanza Friedli while recovering from a neck injury in 1987. The two fell in love, got married, and moved to Switzerland soon after. Donghua eventually became a Swiss citizen and began competing for the country internationally. He won the gold medal on the Pommel Horse in the 1996 Summer Olympics for Switzerland.

From China to Switzerland[edit]

He won the Chinese national gymnastic championships on the Pommel Horse in 1987. However, a neck injury prevented him from making the 1988 Olympic team, and while injured he developed a relationship with Esperanza Friedli, a Swiss national who was backpacking in China. When he told his coaches he was to marry her, they told him to cut off his relationship or he would not be able to compete. He refused, and left for Lucerne with Esperanza.[1]

Olympics and World Championships[edit]

He subsequently had to wait 5 years before acquiring Swiss citizenship. In the meantime, he won the Swiss national championships in the Pommel Horse from 1989 to 1992, and won the overall title in 1993. However, because he was not a Swiss national during that time, those results were not official. When he was granted Swiss citizenship in 1994, he won bronze in the World Championship in Pommel Horse. The next year, he won gold in the same event. Finally, in 1996, at the age of 28, he won both the European Gymnastic Championship and the Summer Olympics in Pommel Horse.


  1. ^ Clarey, C. "Love Conquers All, Eventually". New York Times, April 14, 1996.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Switzerland Tony Rominger
Swiss Sportsman of the Year
1995 – 1996
Succeeded by
Switzerland Michael von Grünigen