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BEIJING, Aug 14, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Xian Dongmei, 33 and mother of an 18-month-old girl, held her arms high in joy after winning her second gold medal in the women's light-weight judo competition at the Olympics.
She became a Chinese legend on Sunday: the first judoka who defended the championship, not to mention the first mother gold medalist.
Xian, from an ordinary farming family in south China's Guangdong Province, smiled in her usual modest way after the match. But her tears swelled when standing on the podium to receive the medal -- tears of joy and pride.
"What I want most right now is to have a good rest and stay with my little daughter," the tough judoka said softly, talking about her plans with her family four days ago.
"I want very much to make it up to my daughter."
Her simple words moved many who were watching. Every mother understood the pain of leaving a little baby behind.
Xian burst into tears almost every time her daughter was mentioned -- tears of deep sorrow.
She claimed her first title in the 2004 Athens Games and made a comeback to don her judogi once again in May 2007 when summoned by the national team. Her baby was only four months old then.
"I have tried my very best today, and I think I defeated not just my opponent, but myself," she said as she won.
Before she started training for the Beijing Games more than a year ago, Xian was having a long-anticipated regular family life in Guangdong, coaching the provincial judo team.
She had just delivered a lovely baby girl in January, after having postponed her wedding four years earlier due to her part in the 2004 Games.
She said she hesitated before making the decision whether to return. Her husband, actually her former practice partner, helped to list the difficulties ahead, including her physical condition.
The veteran judoka was told by a doctor in 1996 that she could not continue her career due to a left knee injury, but she ignored that advice and kept on going.
She was hit by a sudden bone dislocation in her right knee during the finals at a national competition in 2001. To everybody's surprise, she pushed the bone back into place herself and fought on to claim the top medal.
The old injuries were still troubling her, but Xian finally decided to have another try.
"I wanted to find out whether I still have the ability to compete," she thought. She said she knew her strengths and believed she was mentally ready.
In the first two years of her professional sports training from the age of 13, Xian practiced Chinese wrestling, which she said "provided some advantages" by using one of its techniques in the competition.
"One of the reasons for my return is that the Olympic Games would be held in my own country for the first time. That really motivated me."
She said she never expected to achieve so much this time, but had tried very hard to win the medal.
"I must overcome every difficulty, after I made up my mind to compete in the Beijing Games.
"The competition was fierce, but the more difficult part was the period of my recovery after the comeback," she said.
She weighed 63 kilograms then, after 14 months of no professional training, and the only way to lose weight was hard training.
Her training was 10 times that of other athletes, most more than 10 years younger. Xian lost 11 kg in three months and won a championship in a national tournament.
In the finals on Sunday evening, she still had two steel pins in her injured knees.
Her little daughter has been a great relief to her these days.
When she came to Beijing for training, her daughter turned into a frequent flyer at such an early age. Her husband took the baby to the capital to stay for two or three days every month, so that his wife would not miss her child too much.
Xian also chatted with her daughter by computer two or three times a week. "She was very naughty and kept babbling at me. She is my biggest support in all hardships."
"You are a great mother, but a greater athlete," an anonymous Chinese netizen wrote on the portal Baidu.com on Sunday, while many others hailed her as a national treasure.
Copyright 2008 XINHUA NEWS AGENCY
"China's judo medalist Xian is 'mother' of all champions." Xinhua News Agency 14 Aug. 2008. InfoTrac Diversity Studies eCollection. Web. 2 Jan. 2010.
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