ATHLETICS

Defiant Zhang Wenxiu shrugs off past struggles to make hammer throwing history for China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 5:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 6:03am

Hammer thrower Zhang Wenxiu made history in Rio by becoming the first-ever Chinese athlete to win an Olympic silver in the discipline – and all after getting back on her feet since going through 219 days of mental hell when wrongly accused of doping.

The four-time Olympian was in 2014 stripped of her Asian Games gold medal after failing a pre-competition drug test when traces of Zeranol, used as a growth promoter in livestock, were found.

WATCH: golden moments on Day 9 at the Rio Olympics

She waited more than seven months before the Olympic Council of Asia announced its findings that Zhang’s positive test had been the result of the athlete consuming contaminated food.

But the long wait took its toll with Zhang losing 20kg of weight off her 1.82-metre frame.

“[The incident] has not defeated me. It has made me stronger. I am a soldier and I need to have the spirit to win wars,” the 30-year-old said defiantly after collecting her silver medal on Monday.

“I have proven to everyone that I don’t have to rely on anything but my own strength.”

Zhang’s Asian Games gold was returned after her name was cleared.

“I’m not that old. I’m 30. I have gone through a lot of difficulties and I have had so many injuries – my lower back, knee, shoulder. The fact that I am here is even a challenge,” she said.

“I have been through a lot of valleys and bad results but my family pushed me and to get a silver medal is a big honour.

“Since 2008 I have changed the colour from bronze to silver,” she said, referring to her bronze medal win at the Beijing Olympics.

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 9 at the Rio Olympics

Zhang won silver in Rio on Monday with a throw of 76.75 metres, finishing second to Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk who smashed the world record with 82.29 metres, a mark she believes will last the test of time.

“I do believe my record will be in my hands for the next 20 years,” Wlodarczyk said.

The bronze medal went to Britain’s Sophie Hitchon with a throw of 74.54 metres.