Gymnast Li Donghua has gone from one-time Chinese hope to Swiss national champion and from near death to Olympic hero. He has had to overcome adversity and hostility to fulfil a life-long dream of winning Olympic gold on the pommel horse in Atlanta. Li is a survivor by instinct and his amazing story has even inspired a Swiss television company to produce a 50-minute documentary on his life. The 29-year-old Li was the oldest gymnast who competed in Atlanta and the odds were heavily stacked against him years before he even set foot in the Georgia Dome, the Olympic venue for gymnastics. Eight years ago, he fell in love with Swiss girl Esperanza. Six months after first meeting her on the sidewalk in Beijing, they were married. His life was to be changed forever. For the second time, he was faced with a life crisis. Back in 1984 he had almost lost his life after a serious training accident cost him a kidney and his spleen. He was told by doctors he would never train again but he proved them wrong. Now he was split between representing his motherland or joining his wife in a strange land. He choose the latter. 'I was told by the authority I could marry Esperanza but I had to leave the national team and return to my home province in Chengdu. I decided to move to Lucerne, Switzerland,' said Li, who was speaking in the Conrad International Hotel in Queensway . 'It was a tough decision because I was leaving behind first-class facilities and top coaching. I was looked after very well in China and I knew I was going to struggle in Switzerland because the facilities did not match what I was getting in China.' Li, who speaks German to his wife, said: 'Some people might think I was a traitor for leaving China but a lot of other people supported my decision in adopting a new country. 'It was a very difficult decision to make at the time because all I wanted to do was train and become world and Olympic champion.' Switzerland did not acceptLi at first. The facilities were inadequate, coaches couldn't handle his Olympic level and there was some discrimination. 'I felt very bad at first. Everyone in Switzerland seemed to be against me. I couldn't be accepted because I was Chinese. It took two long years before they started to accept me. 'The years before were hard for both me and my wife,' said Li, whose gold medal was one of four won by his adopted country. Li has not returned to Switzerland since winning Olympic gold last month (he has also won the world and European titles) but he can expect a ticker-tape parade in his honour. 'I think winning the Olympic gold helped me finally get accepted by the Swiss people. People feel proud of my achievements and they have heard of my struggle,' he said. Ironically, Lausanne will host the World Championships next year but Li doesn't know whether or not he will compete.