China's 'Golden Lily' drops retirement for Rio

Sun Mar 6, 2016 4:33pm EST
 
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By Alexander Smith

LONDON (Reuters) - China's Xu Lijia, who won Olympic gold in 2012, says she will medal again at the Rio Games having made the "sudden" decision to get back into a dinghy.

Until last year the 28-year-old from Shanghai was studying at Southampton University in southern England, after drawing a line under her Olympic career following her 2012 Games victory further along the coast in the women's Laser Radial class.

But seeing people out sailing, whatever the weather, and looking out over the water to the Isle of Wight inspired Xu, who calls herself "Lily", to get back afloat.

"The Rio Olympic Games is just a new beginning of my active sailing life which is my ultimate goal...as well as promoting sailing in China," Xu told Reuters on Sunday.

"I'm going to grab another medal in 2016 in Brazil," said Xu, who won bronze at Beijing in 2008 and whose 2012 achievement was recognized when she was selected as China's flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

Xu's book "Golden Lily" about her journey through China's grueling state training program, which began when she was just 10, describes the pain of only being able to see her parents once a year under the strict regime athletes had to adhere to.

It also tells vividly of Xu's personal battles with partial deafness, limited visibility in one eye, as well as the conflicts with her Chinese coaches after she signed up her own coach for 2012 via Facebook.

This led to an unorthodox coaching relationship via text and email with Briton Jon Emmett, who was barred from the athlete's village but who Xu says gave her the winning tactical advice.   Continued...

 
China's Xu Lijia holds her national flag as she celebrates winning the women's Laser Radial class sailing competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Weymouth and Portland, southern England, August 6, 2012.   REUTERS/Benoit Tessier