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Kazakhstan's gold champion claimed by Chinese

By Alexis Lai, CNN
July 31, 2012 -- Updated 1109 GMT (1909 HKT)
Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan stands with her gold medal on the podium after the Women's 53kg Weightlifting event.
Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan stands with her gold medal on the podium after the Women's 53kg Weightlifting event.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Weightlifter Zulfiya Chinshanlo won Olympics gold medal for Kazakhstan
  • Chinese media reported she was born and raised in Hunan province under a Chinese name
  • Hunan provincial sports bureau said she was transferred to Kazakhstan team in 2008
  • Many other athletes have left China to seek Olympic glory abroad

(CNN) -- When 19-year-old weightlifter Zulfiya Chinshanlo won an Olympics gold medal for Kazakhstan on Monday, her feat was met with disappointment by some in China for what could have been their victory.

Her success was also met with questions about her nationality as Chinese media reported Chinshanlo to be a Chinese national.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, she was born and raised in Yongzhou, Hunan province under the Chinese name Zhao Changling.

Xinhua quoted a Hunan provincial sports bureau official, Zhou Junfu, as stating before the London Olympics that Chinshanlo was the same person as Zhao Changling who had been transferred by the bureau to the Kazakhstan team in 2008.

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Zhou recalled that during a training exchange in March 2007 in Hunan's capital city, Kazakhstan's weightlifting team expressed interest in having Chinshanlo live in Kazakhstan and represent the country at competitions.

She was transferred to Kazakhstan in 2008 with permission to compete in all international competitions, state media said.

It was then that she adopted the name of Zulfiya Chinshanlo, according to Xinhua.

Chinshanlo was described by Xinhua as a fluent Chinese speaker, but unwilling to address questions relating to China, including when she left China and where her family is located.

Asked if she would return to China, she was said to have paused for a long time before replying, "I don't know." But she was apparently willing to comment on whether she missed Chinese food, saying she missed glutinous rice cakes -- evidence, Xinhua said, that she appreciates Chinese cuisine and has a "Chinese stomach."

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The official Olympics website lists Chinashanlo's birthplace as Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city and its former capital.

The International Olympics Committee requires athletes who are switching national teams to wait three years after representing their former team before competing in the Games. The waiting period can be shortened or waived with permission from the International Sports Federation and the National Olympic Committees concerned.

Other Chinese athletes have left the nation to seek Olympic glory abroad.

In particular, hundreds of stars in table tennis, a sport that China has traditionally excelled at, have competed for other countries.

Table tennis player Jun Gao, who won a silver medal for the Chinese team at the 1992 Summer Olympics, later moved to the U.S. and naturalized as a citizen, competing on the U.S. team for three Olympic Games.

CNN's C.Y. Xu contributed to this report.

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