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BEIJING - The year 2012 witnessed a major breakthrough for the Chinese athletics team, which claimed one gold and five bronze medals in the London Olympics Games, the most medals ever won by the team in one edition of summer Olympics Games.
The 20-year-old Chen Ding came from nowhere to took the men's 20km walk gold with a new Olympic record. It is the first Olympic gold won by a Chinese male walker and also the second Olympic gold won by a Chinese male track and field athlete following the country's hurdling star Liu Xiang's 2004 Athens Olympics victory.
China's Chen Ding wins the men's 20km race walk final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at The Mall, Aug 4, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
"The year 2012 has been an amazing year for me as I not only realized my dream but also received the best ever birthday present in London," said Chen Ding at an awarding gala hosted by the Chinese Athletics Association earlier this month, where he was named the sole China's best track and field athlete of the year.
Chen won the Olympic gold with only one day to go before his 20th birthday, and although he could not celebrate his birthday with his family, the celebration for his gold medal lasted for months.
He is now hailed as "the second Liu Xiang" by the media and his supporters. The scene in which he gave high-fives to spectators and stretched up his finger to the sky as he sped up for the finishing line has already been a classic moment which can often been seen on TV.
"I do not think I will emerge as a superstar like Liu Xiang," said Chen. "Before I won the gold medal, I was just an ordinary athlete. And if I want to achieve more, I need to remain ordinary and keep a low profile."
Born in a poor family in the rural area of China's Yunnan province, Chen knows the importance of staying low and keeping a cool mind.
Back in 2011 Chen was just a nobody trying to find chance to prove himself. He finished third in the qualifying event for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. However, the team leaders decided chose Wang Hao instead of Chen for Daegu as the more seasoned Wang missed the qualifier due to injuries but already proved his worth after he finished fourth at 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"I was really upset at that time. But I knew I should never give up. I should train harder and improve my time until I get the chance to walk for my country," said Chen, whose second place finish in the qualifying event in March earned him the ticket for London Games.
"I managed to prove my worth in the Olympic Games, but it's just a start. To be frank, I am more stressed now because I have to prove I am not a flash in the pan, and I need to fight for more honor in international competitions," Chen added.