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Su captures hearts with fighting spirit

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan’s Su Li-wen finished in fifth place in the women’s taekwondo tournament at the Beijing Olympics without a shiny medal around her neck, but her true sportsmanship has won the hearts of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Su picked herself up 11 times from the floor to battle to the very end of the women’s 57kg taekwondo bronze medal competition in defiance of painful knee and foot injuries.

President Ma Ying-jeou was among those who called Su to express their admiration for the courage and perseverance she demonstrated in the tough contest, despite injuries sustained in an earlier match.

In a phone call to Beijing, Ma told Su that her fighting spirit touched his heart tremendously and that of all the people in Taiwan, according to Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi.

“The sportsmanship you demonstrated provides an exemplary model for the country’s youth to emulate that is far more valuable than any gold medal,” Ma told Su.

Ma also phoned Su’s father in Taishan, Taipei County, to tell the senior Su how proud the country is of his daughter.

The president asked the father to tell his daughter not to be daunted by the defeats and to carry on with her career as a professional taekwondo fighter, according to Wang.

Su, 27, champion of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, the 2007 World University Games in Bangkok and the 2008 Asian Taekwondo Championship, sustained injuries in the preliminary round of the world’s 16 top athletes early Thursday.

In the final duel, she tied with Croatia’s Martina Zubcic 4-4 after the first three rounds of the bronze medal match, but was edged by a decisive point in the fourth round.

During the match, Su continued battling to the end despite falling 11 times — in obvious pain — as she did in all previous competitions. Her perseverance earned her rounds of applause and cheers from the audience in Beijing as well as from members of the international press. Su was carried from the mat by her coach after her defeat and was taken to a hospital for immediate treatment.

Prior to the competition, Su was described by the U.S.-based Sports Illustrated magazine as the only Taiwanese athlete capable of winning a gold for the country. This is the first Olympics Su has participated in.

Su is presently a postgraduate at a physical education university in central Taichung. The government normally provides special employment assistance to Taiwan athletes who have won medals at the Olympics. But officials at the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) said they will offer the same assistance to Su because she stands as a role model for people in all walks of life.

Lawmakers of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held a press conference urging the government to present Su a special medal and include her story in the textbooks for elementary and junior high schools.

Both print and electronic media in China gave prominent reports about the Taiwanese athlete who refused to quit. Bloggers there sent their kudos. They depicted Su in sharp contrast to Liu Xiang, China’s top track and field star, who withdrew from a hurdle event due to a foot injury.

Su said that she was thrilled by the call from President Ma. She reminded younger athletes that she actually made a wrong decision as an injured sportsperson to stay in a contest. However, Su said her only thought during the match was to keep fighting and never quit.

Su said she was aware that her coach attempted to throw in the towel to end the fight, but she would definitely have thrown out the towel to continue fighting if her coach did throw it in, she told reporters.

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 Su captures hearts with fighting spirit 
Secretary-General Hsueh Hsiang-chuan of the Executive Yuan (Cabinet), left, presents a letter from Premier Liu Chao-shiuan to Su Li-wen’s father commending her courage as an example for everyone in the country.(CNA)

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