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Zhong Chen began her sports career playing basketball. After four years of dribbles and passes, she turned to taekwondo. She was then aged 13 and her sport was not yet an Olympic one.
Very quickly Zhong put her talent to good use. In 1997, not only did she make the national team after two years’ practice, but she also won her first Chinese championship titles and stepped up to the podium at the East Asian Games. In three years, she climbed the ranks of women’s taekwondo in the “heavyweight” category - over 67kg.
At the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, the taekwondo tournament was part of the official programme for the first time. In the over 67kg category, the competition was set to be difficult between the 12 athletes in contention. Zhong was the youngest competitor and did not have the experience of her older opponents. She needed all her technique and talent to reach the final, overcoming the obstacles of the direct elimination matches. In the decisive match, the Chinese athlete gave Russia’s Natalia Ivanova short shift, winning 8 points to 3.
The years rolled by and medals of various metals piled up for Zhong Chen. In 2004, at the Olympic Games in Athens, she was no longer the youngest in her category, but just simply the Olympic champion who everyone wanted to dethrone. The matches were intense, Zhong won by only two or three points each time. She qualified for the final, in which she faced France’s Myriam Baverel. As in Sydney, the last match was a simple formality: Zhong won with a final score of 12 points to 5, and took her second gold medal.
In 2008 In Beijing, she participated in her third Olympic Games. In front of her home crowd, the pressure was enormous. Zhong Chen was beaten 2-1 by Britain’s Sarah Stevenson, who went on to win the bronze medal. Along with America’s Steven Lopez for the men, Zhong Chen will remain in Olympic memories as the first to have successfully defended her taekwondo title.