Olympic badminton champion from China's mountain village

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"She is just an ordinary girl, obedient and thoughtful. She knows what she wants, and would work hard to achieve."

That is Guo Jinyu's impression of her daughter Li Xuerui, who just won the Olympic gold medal in badminton on Saturday.

Li Xuerui won the Olympic gold medal in badminton on Saturday. [Photo: 163.com]

Li's hometown was the Funiuxi village of southwest China's mountainous Chongqing Municipality. A ride from downtown area to the village takes one and half hours.

Guo, who runs a small shop in the village, used to be a basketball player, while her husband played basketball as well.

Born to such a "sports family", Li Xuerui was sent to a sports school at the age of seven. "She lived at school, only coming back once in a week," Guo recalled. "Then she had more training and matches outside, so I have less chance to see her. She just relied on herself on her way to success."

The baby-faced Li, 21, was 1.74 meters tall, which was recognized as an advantage as a badminton player. She was also known for the changeful shots and forceful smashes.

Now world No. 3 seed, the fledgling Li garnered reputation only this year. She beat the promising Wang Yihan in the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham this March, and had been on a four-tournament winning streak.

Her edging out Asian Games champion Wang Shixian for a ticket to the London Olympics caused quite a stir in China. However, the quiet girl proved it a right decision for the national badminton team.

On the Olympic arena, she outgunned her teammate Wang Xin after a hard battle to advance to the final, where she was facing the world No.1 seed Wang Yihan.

Li was in very good form in the first game, dominating the court since the beginning and controlling the rhythm of the set. Her rival, on the other hand, made several mistakes by hitting back the shuttlecock to the net. Seizing the opportunities, Li made lift shots so as to enlarge her advantage.

But Wang appeared more aggressive in the second game, lashing out diagonal smashes frequently, whereas Li, 21, tried to finish the competition quickly and began lapsing. They were locked in a seesaw battle with the scores tied for eight times, from 6-6 to 21-21, with the tenacious Wang saving two match points to surge ahead.

The decider started with Wang taking the lead, before Li collected seven points in a row. The pair impressed the audience with their changeful shots. Crowd applauding and cheering, Li appeared tired, while a young girl's voice rose, calling her to "come on".

After the competition, the overjoyed Li threw away her racket to celebrate.

Talking about the final on Saturday afternoon, she commented that in the second game, when she put herself at a disadvantage, "I told myself to recover mentally." While in the third game, "it was very hard because I was losing my physical strength."

In her hometown, the match was watched by crowd on a square. When Li finished her second game, her 83-year-old grandpa Guo Shuanzhu waved a national flag and shouted, "she is our pride", while some other relatives of her hugged and cried in excitement.

"I have never thought she could get the gold medal," said Li's mom Guo Jinyu. "We just hoped that she could go to the Olympics. Before her departure, I told her to protect herself and not to get injured."

Despite how famous Li becomes, she is forever the quiet girl to Guo, who likes to stay at home and doing embroidery.

But on her QQ page, which was similar to the online chatting tool MSN, Li wrote down a sentence under her ID, which said, "I want to live in pride."

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