Kicking for joy

Updated: 2011-09-09 14:28

By Natalie thomas (China Daily European Weekly)

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 Kicking for joy


Meanwhile her coach, Peng Min, has an explanation for why Ahlskog-Hou, despite not being a black belt, was invited to join the Chinese team for the seven-day championships in Pyongyang, which began on Sept 6.

Peng, 36, says her dynamic Swedish student is something of a rarity and a welcome addition to the national squad.

"While the Chinese team is recognized for having a strong male side, the number of females at competition standard is very low," she says.

"I think many girls feel like they don't have time to train, or are worried about competing in fights and coming to work the next day with a black eye."

With just six girls out of a 20-plus strong team attending the competition, coaches were eager to offer Ahlskog-Hou the chance to compete, even though she is two grades below the minimum level needed to attend the competition.

Despite being ethnically half Chinese, Ahlskog-Hou remains somewhat ambivalent about her role as representative of China.

Before coming to Beijing, she had little contact with her relatives back in China, so identifies more with her European side.

"I feel there are some culture-related things I understand more than the average foreigner here, but I don't really get a sense of national pride for China or anything like that," she says.

"If I'm totally honest, while I feel honored to be able to attend, I'm more proud to be representing the team that I train with here in Beijing.

"It means a lot that they believe in me, and think that I can do it."

The preparations in Pyongyang for the competition have been extensive.

Officials restored the capital's "Taekwondo Palace", the world's largest purpose-built taekwondo stadium, and have even composed an official song as well as organised an accompanying taekwondo festival.

More than 800 participants and support staff from some 80 countries are expected to attend the championship, and DPRK, the Republic of Korea, along with Russia and the Czech Republic are expected to field strong sides.

While Ahlskog-Hou claims that her aim for the competition is "not to die", her coaches are more optimistic about her chances.

"She is a good fighter and has really been training hard. We think she will do well," says Peng.

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