Luan returns at 50 to fence for Canada

Tue Aug 5, 2008 12:42pm EDT
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By Gelu Sulugiuc

BEIJING (Reuters) - Jujie Luan was a promising 16-year-old runner and badminton player when Chinese sporting authorities ordered her to switch to foil fencing.

The move was the best thing that ever happened to Luan, whose howls of protest over the move fell on deaf ears.

Luan became a hero in China when she won that country's only ever fencing gold at the Los Angeles Games in 1984 before emigrating to Canada.

Now at 50 years old and eight years after retiring from competition she put on hold her job as a foil coach in Edmonton to compete all over the world and scrape up the qualifying points to represent her adoptive country in Beijing.

"When you're an athlete in China, you're famous and you get everything much easier," Luan told Reuters.

"But now I have to work hard in Canada to make money for living and for traveling to these competitions. But I qualified and I don't care about anything."

She flew to Beijing on July 14, her birthday, calling the trip a gift to herself. Since then she has been training in her native Nanjing, in the sports centre that bears her name.

Her return has rekindled the Chinese media's interest in her in a country that once made a movie about her life and issued stamps bearing her image.   Continued...