Profile: Chinese strongwoman Chen Xiexia: save the tears, show the smile 2008-08-09 15:47:30   Print

    By Sportswriters Wu Chen, Liu Yang

Gold medalist Chen Xiexia of China shows the gold medal at the awarding ceremony of the women's 48kg weightlifting event at Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Aug. 9, 2008. Chen won the first gold for the Chinese Delegation with a total of 212 kilos. (Xinhua/Yang Lei)
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    BEIJING, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Chen Xiexia's coach lost six kilograms of weight after the hot favorite for the Olympic women's 48kg weightlifting title was accidentally injured less than a month before the start of the Beijing Games.

    But the 25-year-old girl managed to overcome the setback and lived up to expectations on Saturday when she outclassed a handful of world-class competitors to win the Olympic gold medal, the hosts' first gold at the Games.

    After 13 years of hard training and going through the accident, the diminutive girl seemed to have a thousand reasons to cry, but she didn't and instead showed a beautiful smile after the competition.

    "There is nothing I fear after going through the low tide," Chen said.

    Shouting "Hey, Jiayou"(Go! Go!) to cheer herself up before every attempt, Chen snatched 95kg and jerked 177kg for a winning total of 212kg. It is also China's first Olympic gold medal in this category.

    "I didn't feel anything special. I have tried my best to compete, whether or not this medal was the first gold," said Chen, who waved to thank the enthusiastic home fans when standing on the podium.

    Despite competing on home soil, Chen didn't feel a lot of pressure. "What I thought was to make every good attempt and achieve as much as I can," she said.

    She really did. She fell into sound sleep at 9 pm on the eve of the decisive battle.

    Chinese coach Ma Wenhui, who gave a big hug to Chen after the competition, said the girl has become mature.

    Chen strained the muscle in her left leg 28 days ago during a training session when attempting to jerk 115kg, which nearly cost her the Olympic berth and triggered concerns about her fitness for the Beijing Games.

    "After she recovered from it, she turned out to be different," Ma said.

    "I felt depressed over the injury, but I never give up," Chen said.

    It's not easy to do so. Even Ma said he was astonished and moved by her persistance. Chen never thought it would be such a difficult road when she chose to practice weightlifting 13 years ago at 12 years of age.

    Born in Panyu City of south China's Guangdong Province, Chen developed a keen interest in sports from her childhood. In 1995, a weightlifting coach of a local amateur sports school spotted Chen, who has good explosive strength, when he went to her primary school to pick up potential players.

    "Is weightlifting interesting?" She asked with curiosity, which led her to the road of weightlifting.

    When Chen was still a newcomer in the weightlifting team of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), two other lifters in her class, Wang Mingjuan, two years younger than Chen, became world champion in 2002 and Yang Lian, born in 1982, smashed three world records at her world championships debut in 2006.

    Like an "ugly duckling", she hided herself in the corner and never dared to dream of the Olympics, but she kept hard training, and it paid off.

    In the National Championships in 2006, Chen won a bronze medal, which sent her into the national weightlifting team.

    "The 2008 Beijing Olympics was only a daydream for me before 2006 as I didn't make good performance. However, it became close to me after I entered the national team," she said.

    Chen survived the fierce competition and pressure in the national team, where many newcomers are dropped each year, and rocketed to the top of the national rankings last year.

    "I have built up self-confidence since 2006," she said.

    She made debut on the international competition stage last April in the Asian Weightlifting Championships.

    She jerked 120kg, one kilo heavier than the previous world record, which was set by her teammate Yang Lian in 2006, and claimed the gold. Excited journalists rushed to the "new face" to ask questions.

    "Actually, I'm old. I'm just new to you," she replied, blushed.

    Three weeks later, she defeated Wang Mingjuan at the national championships.

    Also in 2007, Chen went to Chiangmai in Thailand to participate the World Weightlifting Championships, her first event abroad.

    Ma Wenhui noticed that Chen became nervous when they arrived and didn't sing songs during the training sessions as she usually did.

    "You should act like a tigerling, biting whoever you come across," Ma told her.

    Chen smiled and relaxed. She gained three golds in the world championships.

    Ma said Chen was under certain pressure after rising to stardom following a number of good performances, however, the injury changed the situation.

Editor: Xinhuanet
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