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July 29th, Zulfiya, the Kazakhstan woman weight-lifting athlete, broke the world record and became the champion, earning the second gold medal for Kazakhstan. However, no one knew that this Kazakhstan weightlifter was a former Chinese athlete — former Hunan player, Zhao Changning (赵常宁). Zulfiya, originally named Zhao Changning, was born in 1993 in the deep mountains two-hour away from Yongzhou, Hunan Province. At age of 11, because of poverty, Zhao Changning was sent by her parents to Lengshuitan in Yongzhou City to practice weight lifting. The tiny girl did not show special talent in the beginning, but it at least improved the her quality of life, who did not even have enough to eat at home. To her, weightlifting was a means of life. “To have good food to eat!” became her initial motivation to continue the practice.
One day in 2007, Zhao Changning, who had entered the Hunan provincial team, saw a man at the training place, and his appearance changed her fate forever. That man was Liang Xiaodong, the former Director of Administration of Sports in Yongzhou City, Hunan Province, and couch of China’s national team, and he was a referee at the Beijing Olympic Games. In order to meet the needs of International Weightlifting Federation, Liang Xiaodong told Zhao Changning the “Wolf Raising Plan” ("养狼计划") proposed by Ma Wenguang, Secretary General of International Weightlifting Federation. Zhao did not want to be separated from her parent, but considering benefit allocation and in order to get out of the ruck, she, like a chess piece, was arranged to leave her home and became a Kazakhstan citizen through legal procedures.
From Hudong wiki: The Wolf Raising Plan was originally proposed by the Chinese table tennis team. Early 2009, Cai Zhenhua took over the Chinese Table Tennis Association and came up with a long-term plan that focused on table tennis future development. Taking "going out, and inviting in" approach to help the foreign table tennis players to raise their skills, to train opponents into "Wolves", rather than change ourselves from "Lion" to "sheep". Later, the Chinese weightlifting team also learned the "Wolf Raising Plan”. By training and exchanging players with foreign athletes and other methods, letting other national or regional players to win the championship, will be more conducive to the development and popularization of women’s weightlifting.
After she arrived at Kazakhstan, language became Zhao Changning’s biggest challenge, but she could understand some Russian now. Due to some reason, Zhao Changning could only pretend to be a Kazakhstan, and pretend not be familiar with her friends.
She was forced to leave her home town by fate, but this Hunan girl, who did not gain much recognition at the beginning and was regarded to only possess brute force, did not give up this once-in-a-life chance. Through persistent efforts, she won the World Championship in both individual event and total scores, and even broke the world record in the World Championship. Not until then did China weightlifting field paid attention to this “enemy”.
It is said that Zulfiya had a five-year contract with Kazakhstan. Her personal introduction showed that “she could speak both Russian and Chinese, and even more fluent in Chinese. Zulfiya was an ethnic Dungan (descendants of Huis in the northwest China, who moved to Russia), who migrated northwards as early as in the Qing Dynasty, but still maintained many traditions, including Chinese Language. Zulfiya studied in Xinjiang for two years, and had a lot of connections with China.” However, this was a feint, and was totally wrong. Its purpose was to cover the fact that she was a Chinese! It was not difficult to discover through the television camera that there was no difference between Zulfiya and China’s team in terms of physical condition: tiny, slim, and flexible – a typical small player.
Nevertheless, for the sake of Olympics and her dream, Zulfiya had to continue this “pretence”. And even when she was defeated by Li Ping, her alumni in Hunan, at the Guangzhou Asian Games, she still pretended to need an interpreter, to be unfamiliar with China, and to be a Kazakhstan.
According to the Agreement, this Olympics would be her last time to represent Kazakhstan in international competitions. After this Olympics, Zhao Changning will go back to China, if no accident occurs.
Zhao Changning became the second female weightlifting athlete to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics competing against China. Hence, this gold medal not only should make Kazakhstans to cheer, but also should be the pride of China weightlifting team. Her name will soon become Zhao Changning in the near future.
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