No 40: Wu Jingyu

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 June, 2008, 12:00am

Name: Wu Jingyu

Date of birth: July 13, 1987

Place: Jingde county, Jiangxi province

Entry for Beijing Games: Taekwondo, women's 47kg class

Career highlights: 1st, World Championships, 2007; 1st, Asian Games, 2006; 2nd, World Cup, 2006; 1st, World Junior Championships, 2005

If it wasn't for the 50 yuan fine and disciplinary warning she got in middle school, taekwondo prodigy Wu Jingyu wouldn't be on the Olympic mat at all.

Wu, the gold medal favourite in the women's 47kg division, was punished after beating up two boys - becoming the first girl in her school to be given a disciplinary warning.

The 13-year-old's name quickly spread around Jingde county in Jiangxi province, and a taekwondo coach decided to try her out. She hasn't looked back. 'I just can't stop kicking and fighting. It got me into a lot of trouble when I was a kid,' Wu told the Beijing Daily. 'I was born in a peaceful place that is known for chinaware - so nobody liked a girl who loved to fight against boys.

'But after taking up this sport, I've entered the fast lane - pain and tears, reporters asking for interviews, and championship trophies. But the most important thing is I can stay out of trouble.'

What Wu failed to mention is that, while the boys from her class were now safe from harm's way, her opponents on the mat have trouble on their hands.

She has been unstoppable since turning professional in 2004, winning the Asian Games in 2006 and three consecutive national championships. Her career highlight came in 2007 in Beijing when she won China's first World Championship gold medal, beating Thailand's Yaowapa Boorapolchai, another gold contender for the Beijing Games, by a wide margin.With World and Asian titles under her belt, Olympic gold would lift Wu to true superstar status. She has already become a national figure thanks to her role in a film about taekwondo, appearing in adverts and strutting her stuff on the catwalk at the National Championships in March.

But Wu refuses to follow the path taken by diving diva Guo Jingjing, who has been criticised savagely for being involved in too many commercial events.

'I am happy to do all these things because I want to show my confidence and make people happy,' she said. 'But I don't want these things to distract me because I'm sure nothing will be better than standing on the gold-medal podium at the Olympics.'

And it's a fair chance those beaten-up boys back in her hometown will be among the millions backing Wu all the way.



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