News and Policies

Gong's back on the gold trail

Updated: Sep 4, 2023 By SHI FUTIAN China Daily Print
Share - WeChat

Gong Lijiao has collected the vast majority of shot put's major global honors during her illustrious career, but even at 34 she remains relentless in her pursuit of excellence.

Next up on the medal trail for China's reigning Olympic champion are the Hangzhou Asian Games, which take place from Sept 23-Oct 8.

"I hope I can win gold again in Hangzhou, which will be my fourth time competing at the Asian Games.This time it's special as it's a home event. And I also want to welcome all the Asian athletes who will compete in Hangzhou. I hope all of them can produce their best at the games,"Gong told China Daily.

Gong returned home from the World Athletics Championships in Budapest last month with bronze -the eighth medal she has collected in nine trips to the worlds to earn her a special mention in the history books.

"I have won two gold, two silver and four bronze medals at the worlds, so that's the most medals won by an athlete in a single sport at the championships," said Gong in Budapest.

"That gives me a huge confidence boost and it's great recognition. All these years have felt like a dream to me. I regret not being able to win gold at the worlds this year, but at the same it only motivates me more.I want to thank all the people who have supported me. My passion for this sport keeps pushing me on to keep trying."

Despite such dedication to her craft, Gong says her career began more "by accident" than by design.

She told China Daily that she never thought shot put would become her lifelong passion when the little village girl from Hebei province first picked up the heavy metal ball.

"One of my friends practiced shot put, and I just played with her as a kid. She was bigger than me and I was more like a shot put caddie to her at first," recalled Gong.

"Then one day I thought why not to try it myself, and I threw it and that was the moment when I was first noticed by a coach."

Gong began with county-level competitions, often throwing further than the boys to gain more and more attention.

"I guess I was destined for this sport. I was stronger than all the boys around me. I remember in my village there were carts, and sometimes when we messed around as kids, we would challenge each other to see who could lift a cart wheel.Most of the boys couldn't, but I could do it," said Gong.

"But when I started to compete professionally, I realized that talent is not enough and all the training can be very boring and tough. Sometimes I watch old training videos of myself and I'm amazed at how I could keep practicing those tedious moves over and over again.

"It's not like table tennis or badminton where you interact with your rivals. In shot put, the greatest rival is yourself. It can be very hard to master a simple move in the sport. It's a continuous test of one's own limits."

All that hard work paid off handsomely for Gong. She competed at her first Olympics at the 2008 Beijing Games, initially finishing fifth but subsequently being upgraded to the bronze-medal position after two athletes were disqualified for violations of anti-doping rules.

After pocketing silver at London 2012, she could only manage fourth at Rio 2016, before golds at the 2017 and 2019 world championships established her as the sport's dominant force.

Gong finally got her hands on Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020. That victory was China's first-ever Olympic title in a field event.

"I'm that kind of person who never gives up. I remember before the Tokyo Olympics, I suffered injuries and my knees were swollen. I'll never forget that pain, yet I managed to beat it," Gong added.

"I want to thank our nation for providing me with wonderful support. I have great support staff around me, such as medical personnel and fitness trainers. And nowadays we have a lot more high-tech facilities and training methods."

Despite still competing, Gong is also coaching the next generation of Chinese shot put talents. Earlier this year, she was appointed vice-president of the Chinese Athletics Association.

"Shot put is not very popular in China, and I want to attract more people to the sport. Becoming the Olympic champion raised my profile and, more importantly, the profile of women's shot put," said Gong.

"I will try to push myself to the Paris Olympics and I'm also helping to nurture more talented young athletes. All these new roles add up to more responsibilities. I'm more confident than ever that I can contribute more to the development of sports in China."

Gong's elite athletic ability has never been in doubt but nowadays her efforts off the field are also gaining widespread recognition.

"The thing that impresses me most about Gong is her ability to be herself. She's very modest, humble and friendly," said Myles Brown, an Australian fitness coach on Gong's team.

"One of her big advantages in competition is her ability to focus only on herself and block out everyone else. In addition, she helps and guides young athletes.

"In terms of the Hangzhou Asian Games, I'm hoping that she gets to the level that we're after - to reach 21 meters. This is a perfect opportunity to do it."

Copyright©2023 China Daily. All rights reserved.


京公网安 京公网安备 11010502032503号