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'Big Girl' uses brains as well as brawn
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China's judoka Tong Wen

China's Tong Wen wins over 78 judo gold August 15.

The two coaches that have trained Tong Wen, the Olympic women's over 78 kg judo gold medalist, are unanimous in their opinion of her as an assiduous and disciplined student since taking up sport in her childhood.

Tong was overweight as a primary school student, which was why she registered for physical exercise at the Tianjin Heping Xinhua Sports School, her coach Guo Zhizhong told China Daily Friday.

"She worked hard with me to lose weight and get fit, never once slackening or complaining," Guo said.

Twenty-five-year-old Tong showed intelligence as well as staying power during training. She would sometimes even deputize for Guo .

Having achieved an impressive score in her high school entrance examination, Guo suggested she focus on study rather than sports. But Tong chose to stay where she was, because she liked both sports and her coach.

"She continued shot-put and discus training with me until she was picked by Wu Weifeng to practice judo," Guo said.

But Guo was initially unwilling to let Tong, then aged 16, leave.

"I knew that coach Wu was very strict, and had hoped to get Tong more physically prepared for judo, but she was confident and keen to try," Guo said.

Wu, Tong's present coach, says she is clever and witty, and that, surprisingly enough, the 1.8 m-tall girl, weighing in at 128 kg, also excels at embroidery.

Olympic competition is intense and as Tong has achieved such outstanding results in international competitions, her opponents have done thorough research on her judo techniques. Wu was hence understandably worried before her Olympic final, Wu said in an interview before the match Friday .

But those who have known Tong since childhood had faith in her.

"I believe Tong can win the gold medal, based on her wit, strong will and hard work with her coach," Guo said before Friday's match.

Tong might still be on top competing form after the Beijing Olympics, Gao Fengxiang, president of Tianjin Heping Xinhua Physical School, said.

"It is likely that Tong will compete for Tianjin at the National Sports Meet in 2010. As her head of school I am very proud of her and wish her every success in the future," he told China Daily.

(China Daily August 16, 2008)

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