LONDON — A former yak-herder who did not even see the Olympics on TV until 2008 has become the Games’ first ever Tibetan medallist, reports said Sunday.
Qieyang Shenjie, who grew up riding horses on the Tibetan plateau, prompted jubilation with her 20km race walk bronze in London, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.
“They (coaches) have been so good to me. This is the way how I paid them off. I am so grateful,” she said.
The 21-year-old, known as Choeyang Kyi in Chinese, was sent to a specialist sports school as a teenager after she won a local marathon, Xinhua said.
When she was action on Saturday, her parents fingered prayer beads and chanted Buddhist mantras as they watched on TV, and smiled with tears in their eyes as she came in third, according to the agency.
Cheers could be heard from nearby herdsmen’s tents in their community in the remote Qinghai province, Xinhua said. The report added that Qieyang’s training involves walking 30 kilometres (19 miles) a day.
“Choeyang grew up on the plateau, which may explain her strong heart and breathing capacity, but what really makes her stand out is perseverance,” her coach Yuan Dejiu was quoted as saying.
“She takes the pain in the training and never lets up.”