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Yang Xiuli, new Olympic champion under Chinese magic judo coach Liu
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08:47, August 15, 2008

It takes Yang Xiuli ten years to believe that she could call her coach "Shifu" for a considerable level in judo. She uttered the title toward Liu Yongfu after winning an Olympic gold Thursday.

"Shifu", which used to be a title to a Chinese Kongfu master, now means a lot more than a coach or a tutor.

"It has been ten years since he started to guide me in judo and I have not been good enough to deserve calling him until I got the Olympic gold medal today," said Yang.

Before Yang's success, the 60-year-old coach had turned out three Olympic judo champions for China: Zhuang Xiaoyan in Barcelona, Sun Fuming in Atlanta and Yuan Hua in Sydney, all in heavyweight division.

Meeting Cuba's Yalennis Castillo in the five-minute final bout of women's 78kg category at the Beijing Olympic Games, Yang faced her real challenger of the day when Castillo tied the game with a koka at the bout's end. But Yang won for initiating more attacks in the longest judo match of the Games.

Yang, 24-year-old northeast China's Liaoning native, started to practice judo at 14 and came under Liu's wing one year later in 1998 when she entered the provincial team.

Taking an introversive character, Yang had not been easy to be stimulated in training until Liu offered two options to her:"either throw me down and go for Olympic gold medal, or give up and return home." After that, Yang won four national titles under the magic coach.

Before the Games, Yang's best international result was a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. She also finished fifth in last year's world championships. But Liu believed in her.

"I have nothing to teach her, all we have to do is to relax and enjoy the Games," Liu said before Yang's Olympic debut.

The Chinese judoka, who used to be a shot put athlete, performed a perfect four ippon bouts before the final on Thursday evening and got an injury on eyepit in the final.

"The overtime fight gave no problem for my endurance, neither did the injury," she said. "The great bravery and strong will of the Chinese people in fighting with the earthquake have been encouraging me."

"You have to give all out in the competition, unless you wouldn't make it out," she added.

It's China's second success in women's half-heavyweight division. Yang's predecessor Tang Lin emerged to win the first gold in women's 78kg class for China at the Sydney Games. Four years later in Athens, Liu Xia lost to Japan's Noriko Anno in the final.


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