21-year-old Choeyang Kyi, who became the first Tibetan to participate at an Olympics won a bronze medal in the women’s 20-kilometer race walk Saturday.
Beaming her way through the finish line, Choeyang said she felt honored to participate in the Olympics as a Tibetan.
"I'm extremely honored to take part as the first representative of the Tibetans at the Olympic Games and to win a medal," the Associated Press quoted Choeyang as saying.
Tibetans gathered to cheer Choeyang waved Tibetan flags along her route past the Buckingham Palace.
Choeyang said she heard Tibetans cheering for her.
"I heard it! Really. I heard a Tibetan cheering me on. At the time, I looked backward but couldn't see who that person was," she said.
Lodi Gyatso, a Tibetan living in England was one of the Tibetans who carried banners that said “You go girl, we Tibetans are with you.” Lodi said he had mixed feelings in seeing Choeyang’s participation in the Olympics. “As a Tibetan, I was very happy to see a Tibetan woman making history in this important event, but I was bit saddened at the same time that her win raised China’s flag at the award podium.”
Kalsang Dhondup, executive secretary of Tibet National Sports Association based in India said Choeyang’s win is a matter of pride for all Tibetans.“Not only was Choeyang the first Tibetan to participate in Olympics, but she made all Tibetans proud by winning a medal,” said Mr. Dhondup.
Choeyang who was born into a nomadic family in Tsoejang in Amdo eastern Tibetan (Chinese: Haiyan, Haibei T.A.P, Qinghai province) was selected into the Qinghai Team in April 2008 and later into the National Team in June 2010.
Choeyang's coach Yuan Dejiu attributed Choeyang's physical strength to her upbringing on the high Tibtan plateau, according to Chinese state media Xinhua. Qinghai sports officials said many Tibetan children in rural areas have great athletic potential, but have not had access to proper training, reported Xinhua.