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History-making Chinese wrestler lets Olympic dream on
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22:16, August 13, 2008

After knocking out a world champion Wednesday morning, Chang Yongxiang, who has never been a favorite for major tournaments, escalated his ambition toward one of the world's best wrestlers.

Chang made the history by taking the first-ever Olympic men's wrestling silver for China in the 74kg Greco-Roman in Beijing on Wedensday night.

Five months ago, the dream of Chang, was simply to be an Olympian to the Games that are hosted by his own country.

The Olympics seemed not as tough as he previously thought when he fought into the final of his category. Most didn't expect much chance of him before he encountered world champion Yavor Yanakiev of Bulgaria. He overwhelmed the Bulgarian in two comfortable bouts, which greatly fueled him up for next challenges.

The 23-year-old met no substantial challenge until what Belarusian Aleh Mikhalovich posed to him. After a big-margin defeat in the first bout, Chang adjusted his tactics and destroyed his rival with quick movement and explosion.

The tactics were the key to the giant killer, said Sheng Zetian, three-time Olympic bronze medalist who is now head coach of the Chinese wrestling team.

Chang's success continued since the victory over Yanakiev but was stopped by the gold medalist Manuchar Kvirkelia who won Georgia the first gold in the Beijing Olympics.

A silver was obviously an unfulfilled mission for his Olympic dream. The young wrestler stood tearful while seeing the red five-star national flag being raised in the victory ceremony. Both he and his coach wished to hear the national anthem, or the top Olympic honor.

Chang said, "I was so upset not to win China a gold although this is the best result of the men wrestlers in the Olympics."

"He (Kvirkelia) was obviously better than I," Chang said. After Chang's securing a final berth this morning, his coach helped him prepare a lot in a bid to get the gold.

Chang has prepared for the Olympics for long.

He used to lose his temper during competition and training, which contributed to his ownership of no major titles.

He didn't usually like being disciplined by coaches, cared nothing about his body weight, and didn't bother to improve his endurance in training.

The talented wrestler, who was born in Hebei but recruited by the provincial team in adjacent Shanxi Province, was envied by others for his excellent physique to be a top athlete.

But in many eyes, Chang squandered his endowment and was even kicked out of the national team.

Upgrading his weight from 66kg to the 74kg category, Chang turned patient and decided to pay for his own training with his former colleagues.

He once asked team manager Zhai Youxian whether he might get a ride to the Beijing Olympics. Zhai responded to him that everything would be possible if he showed his ability.

The outsider of the national team then energize all his muscles for his dream of being one of the Olympic team.

He has worked hard since the dream was lighted up. He even controled his temper and often solicited advice from coaches and teammates. All his efforts paid dividends when he secure an Olympic berth by winning the Asian champion in March in South Korea.

The council of Hanbazhuang, the village where Chang was born, said before the Olympics Chang would be awarded 20,000 yuan (2,985 U.S. dollars), which is a hefty bonus from the village primarily relying on farming.

His father said over a phone interview he set off firecrackers celebrating his son's Olympic debut.

With a silver in hand, Chang said he would let the Olympic dream on.


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