1st Tibetan Olympian wins medal in London Olympics

Tibet celebrated its first Olympic medal as 22-year-old Choeyang Kyi today won a bronze medal in the women's 20-km race walk at the London Games.

Kyi etched her name into history as China's first Tibetan Olympic medallist. It is a landmark achievement for the Himalayan province as Kyi grew up herding yaks on a plateau meadow, just like many other women from rural Tibet.

Singing and praying accounted for much of her spare time.And it was not until 2008 that she got the chance to watch the Olympic Games on TV for the first time.

"I had only one thought in mind -- fight! The crowds were so enthusiastic. That helped me stay in high spirits," she told reporters after the race.

Choeyang's parents watched their daughter make history on TV in their rural home in Haiyan county, located in the Haibei Tibetan autonomous prefecture in northwest China's Qinghai province.

Although they were unable to understand the Mandarin-speaking commentator, Gonpo Rabten and Sonamje glued to the TV, pushing the prayer beads and chanting Buddhist sutras for her success.

When Choeyang crossed the finish line, her parents smiled, tears welling up in their eyes.

Cheers and applause could be heard breaking out in the tents that make up their herding community on the Jinyintan pasture, the Xinhua report said.

They prepared milk tea and food at home as relatives, friends and neighbours flocked to their house, bringing ceremonial white scarves to extend their greetings.

Choeyang said she has missed her parents a great deal, as she has not been home for a long time due to her training.

"My prayers go to my parents and every single one of my supporters," she said. 

The woman, whose name in Tibetan means "the sun," cited renowned Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang as her idol.

"Liu Xiang is the model for Chinese track athletes.He has done his best and he has my full support," she added.

Choeyang's uncle Haichen, who accompanied her to the London games, said Choeyang first showed her athletic ability at the age of nine, becoming known in her community for her exceptional horse-riding skills.

Her parents sent her to the provincial sports school seven years later after she won a township-level marathon.

In 2008, Choeyang was picked by coach Yuan Dejiu to concentrate on the race walk event.

She joined the national race walk team two years later. "Choeyang grew up on the plateau, which may explain her strong heart and breathing capacity, but what really makes her stand out is perseverance," Yuan said.
"She takes the pain in the training and never lets up. To prepare for the Olympics, Choeyang trained hard at the Qinghai Duoba National Sports Training Base, starting her training at 9am daily and walking about 30 km every day," Yuan added.

After Choeyang earned her Olympic qualification in March, Feng visited her home and gave a 50,000-yuan (USD 7870) subsidy to her impoverished family.

She was also given a 3,000-yuan monthly allowance for her training.Qinghai sports officials said many Tibetan children in rural areas have great athletic potential, but have not had access to proper training.

But the tide has started to turn.The proficiency of Tibetans in sports like shooting, archery and track and field events has led some of them to emerge at national sports competitions.
"We will bring more exceptional Tibetan athletes to the world stage. Choeyang represents just the first step," Feng said. 

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