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UPDATED: August 7, 2012
Xu Lijia Wins Women's Laser Radial Sailing Gold

China's Xu Lijia won Laser Radial class in the Olympic sailing after a close medal race on Monday, the second gold ever in sailing for China.

Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Xu finished the medal race first, and had a net score of 35 points. The Netherlands's Marit Bouwmeester and Belgium's Evi Van Acker won silver and bronze respectively. Annalise Murphy from Ireland, who led the first four rounds of the whole competition, had to settle for a fourth place.

Before the medal race, only one point separated the top four sailors, with Xu and Bouwmeester both on 33 points, and Murphy and Van Acker on 34.

Murphy led around the first mark. Xu tried to overtake her but was given a penalty turn by on-the-water umpires for illegal propulsion.

The 27-year-old then took the lead before the end of the second leg and never looked behind.

"I didn't have a very good start but I know where my strength is. I made the most of everything today. I have enjoyed the freedom. No regrets." Xu said of the race.

Xu was proud of the gold as she snatched it in Britain. "Britain and European countries are good (in sailing) and I want to take this experience back to China so more can experience the beauty of sailing."

Xu started swimmer at the age of six and took up sailing four years later because she found more fun in sailing.

"I enjoy the feeling of sailing on the boundless sea," she said.

In 2002, Xu was old enough to change from Optimist class to Europe. But a tumor operation cost her hopes of taking part in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

She had to switch to Laser Radial in 2005 as the International Sailing Federation decided to replace the Europe class with Laser Radial in the Olympics, and showed her talent by winning China's first sailing world title in 2006 and a bronze in Beijing Olympics.

After China's National Games in 2009, Xu took a long break from sailing and enrolled in Shanghai Communications University.

"Those days off sailing gave me a good rest, both physically and mentally. And I learned a lot during my campus life," said Xu.

Xu resumed training in May 2011. "It took me a long time back to the normal life of a sailor. It was so tiring and I almost gave up."

Xu is not sure if she will compete in Rio 2016, but she said sailing will be her life career.

A gold medal made Xu a big name in China, but she said: "I would rather not be a big name. I would just like to make more Chinese people know the sport and get involved in it."

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2012)

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