By Eric Ellis
The opinions expressed are his own.
Tiger wife or Trophy wife? Slam-down Sister or caring partner doing a Tammy Wynette? New York socialite or about-to-be global media mogul?
When Wendi Deng soared on Tuesday, 42 and pretty-in-pink, left across our TV screens to clobber the idiot cream-pieing her struggling octogenarian billionaire husband, my first thought was of Messrs Wang Chongsheng and Xie Qidong, two hale and delightful old men retired in the central Chinese city of Xuzhou, where Wendi grew up as Deng Weng Ge, or “Cultural Revolution Deng” as was a parent’s political imperative of those dark Maoist days.
Mr Wang was Wendi’s volleyball coach at Xuzhou’s No 1 Middle School, and Mr Qie her academic supervisor. Wang taught her volleyball, and rather too well for the scholarly Qie’s taste. Both men can be seen in this slideshow.) “She lagged behind other students because of playing volleyball,” he complained when I met him in early 2007. Xie persuaded Wendi to give up volleyball and focus on university entry exams. “Because she had good health, she could stay very late at night to make up her study,” he says. “She has a struggling spirit and made big progress. I also would say she is smart.” Giving succour to those of us who wonder what use high school ever is for later life, it seems that Wendi at least retained Wang’s ability to execute an Olympic medal-winning spike over the net.
It may well be a spike worth billions. Wendi has never been the most favorite member of the Murdoch family among the clan itself since Rupert, double her age, took her as his third wife in 1999. Indeed, after getting over the shock that their Dad had left their sainted mother Anna after 32 years, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James Murdoch were relieved to read, shortly after he married Wendi, Murdoch’s remarks to an interviewer that Wendi’s job was “as a home decorator,” that she was not “some business genius about to take over News.”