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Cycling to London, French cyclist Longo's legend carrys on
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In the August sweltering weather, Longo Ciprelli crossed the finishing line all wet on her face.

The 49-year old French legend narrowly missed a fifth Olympic medal in her career by taking the fourth place of women's time trial in 35:52.62, less than two seconds off the podium.

French cyclist: Longo Ciprelli

French cyclist: Longo Ciprelli  

Passing the journalists who circled gold medalist Kristin Armstrong of the United States, Longo walked alone to the corner with her bike.

Moments after finishing her seventh Olympic Games, an inevitable question would be raised for Longo. Would she be back for an eighth Olympics in 2012 in London?

"Well, it rains a lot in London, just like several days ago here. I do think I am still in a good form, as you can see," said Longo, who leaves the door open for London.

Longo's durability is impressive.

She made her Olympic debut in 1984. By 1992, she roared into Barcelona as the heavy favorite, but crashed with Kathy Watt and failed to win the gold.

In 1996, she got it right, striking gold of road race in Atlanta along with silver in the individual time trial. In 2000, she won her fourth Olympic medal with bronze in the time trial.

While some saw her presence in Beijing as a curiosity, Longo was taking it very seriously.

A frequent visitor to Colorado, she trained at high altitude in Colorado, New Mexico, and even El Salvador to prepare for the humid and hot conditions in Beijing.

In order to get good performance in her beloved cycling, she never attended opening ceremonies even she participated in seven Olympic Games. Beijing was also no exception.

"Standing at night for two to three hours indeed costs lots of energy. As road cycling always is scheduled on the nest day after the opening ceremony. I really have no time to go," she said.

Always known for her maverick ways, Longo is not staying in the Athletes' Village, preferring an apartment on the outskirts of Beijing.

She still lives near Grenoble, France, where her rural home is populated with a menagerie of cats, dogs, goats, birds and reportedly even an American bison.

To some cyclists and experts in France, Longo is often vilified for single-handedly undermining an entire generation of French women's cycling.

She often won qualification for the Olympic Games or world Championships, edging younger ones out.

"I just do what I like to do, and follow my heart for the sport. If they could overwhelm me, then I would have no chance to come here," said Longo.

By 2012, Longo will be 53-year old.

Will she appear on next Olympic Games? The French legend faces the same question being asked for millions times.

(Xinhua News Agency August 13, 2008 )

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