Zou Shiming revels in his victory in the light flyweight boxing final on Sunday. [XInhua]
Zou Shiming, the best hope in China for its first Olympic boxing gold, eventually made the dream come true on home turf, winning the men's light fly 48kg crown at the Beijing Olympic Games on Sunday.
To his surprise and expectation as well, Zou reaped the juicy harvest from an unexpected easy final as his shoulder-injuried Mongolian rival Serdamba Purevdorj abandoned the bout lagging 1-0 behind in the second round.
Nevertheless, Zou still has every reason to celebrate his first-ever and China's first Olympic boxing gold medal, as well as its 50th and second to last gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Zou, a two-time world champion and Athens Olympics bronze medalist, got off to a barnstorming start when he pulverised the Mongolian with a sudden burst of uppercuts in the opening round.
He was ferocious in the second round as he came up with all sorts of brutal punches, thrashing Purevdorj at will. With a minute and 41 seconds left of the second round, his rival's coach threw in the towel to save an injured Purevdorj from further punishment.
Within a glimpse of a second, Zou couldn't believe he had such luck to embrace his victory so easily for the epoch-making feat in the Chinese boxing history.
"It was unexpected," Zou said after the bout, "but now I feel happy and proud."
Though a bit regretful since he has been preparing for his final fight for years and wanted to give a brilliant show to the audience, Zou thinks the gold medal compensates everything, like his ten-year hard training, and generations of efforts paid by the Chinese boxing team.
"It's the time to blossom," the gold medalist said: "Now I can show the Chinese power to the whole world."
After the fight, Zou, wrapping up in a Chinese national flag and wearing his famous golden boxing boots, ran around the inner arena in ecstasy amid the deafening cheering from the fully-packed audience.
Zou's trip to the Olympic gold seemed to be pretty nice and easy, with him crushing all the five opponents easily en route except French Nordine Oubaali.
Zou escaped a possible defeat by Oubaali during his 1/8 final with a tie of 3-3 and was announced winner by small points, which was the most dangerous fight Zou had undergone in the Olympic boxing tournament.
In his first fight, Zou danced himself to victory, conquering Venezuelan Eduard Bermudez Salas with an amazing 11-2.
After making the quarterfinals with the win over Oubaali, Zou embarked on a smooth road to victory. He beat Kazakh Birzhan Zhakypov 9-4 in the quarters and washed out Irish Paddy Barnes with an astonishing 15-0 in the semifinal.
Then he got a surprise gift of Purevdorj's shoulder injury in the final and easily grabbed the gold. No one, including himself and his parents, would have dreamed of his winning the first Olympic boxing gold for China in such a way.
Yet, those seemingly easy victories of Zou are paid off by his decade-long hard training and preparation.
When he was little, Zou was actually little in size, short, thin, timid, girly-looking. Being bullied by his stronger pals, even by girls, little Zou had the impetus to take up Chinese martial arts and boxing to make himself stronger.
"When you stand on the stage, you'll immediately feel like a warrior. That feeling is awesome!" he once said.
In 1997, Zou was picked into the Guizhou boxing team in his hometown, and was chosen to the national team in 1999 after winning a national youth boxing championship.
The experienced coach Zhang Chuanliang saw merits in this little guy: thanks to his martial arts practice and a light weight, Zou can move and punch fast. Speed, becomes Zou's stunt.
From everyday practice, the master and the student gradually combined Zou's kungfu skills into his boxing, and created a distinctive way for him to avoid fists and launch attacks.
Using this unique "Kungfu boxing", Zou stunned the world during the 2003 Bangkok World Boxing Championship by winning a silver medal in the light flyweight category.
In the 2005 Mianyang World Boxing Championship, Zou beat his old rivalry Cuban Yan Bhartelemy and won a gold medal.
In 2007, Zou became "Fox Zou" after successfully holding to his champion throne in the Chicago World Boxing Championship, and his boxing skill was vividly called "foxy boxing".
The British newspaper Guardian said Zou "fights like a sparrow and acts like Ali (the boxing legend)". Zou has become the actual king in his realm.
As years pass by, Zou deliberately focused training on his weak part: his punching power. After years of intensive training on muscle-building and punching, he gradually gained power on his attacks yet still keeps his speedy footwork.
As his coach Zhang said, now Zou has developed into a comprehensive boxer with good speed, power, tactics and a mature mind.
With the gold in hand, the two-time world champion and the Olympic bronze-medalist finally sees his dream realized.
Zou contributed the gold to his coach and the whole Chinese boxing team, as they have sacrificed so much for China's boxing for decades.
As for his own future plan, Zou said he had thought about turning professional after the Olympics, as that's another arena he hasn't conquered, but he needed to consult his coaches first.
"I still feel dizzy right now," said the excited throne-holder, "because I can't believe this is really happening!"
(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2008)