The New Yorker profiles boxer Zou Shiming, who is China’s first contender for an Olympic gold medal:
On a cold night in November, Zou Shiming, the captain of China’s national boxing team, arrived early for a banquet in his honor at a Chinese restaurant in a mall in Chicago, where the amateur world championships were being held. Zou is twenty-six, stands just under five feet five inches tall, and looks boyish enough to be a teen-ager, but wrinkles form beside his eyes when he smiles. The speck of a scar by his left eye is not from boxing but from a girl who once bullied him in school. He has sharp cheekbones, a thick brush of black hair, and a long, aquiline nose. Like most boxers, he alternates between two sizes: regular weight—in his case, a hundred and ten pounds—and fighting weight (a hundred and six pounds). Before each competition, he spends most of a month famished. He gets grumpy and irritable, and then apologizes. For distraction, he gnaws on watermelon slices and spits out the pulp. Or he pulls up pictures of lamb noodles and posts them on his blog.
His teammates were still outside the restaurant, window-shopping, but Zou took a seat at an empty table. He laid out a Chinese newspaper and scanned the headlines, with little interest. The bridge of his nose was puffy and blue from his last bout, a few hours earlier. He was still in his red-and-white team warmup suit with “China” embroidered in gold thread across the back. On his left breast he wore a small brass pin of Mao Zedong’s head—a gift from his coach, Zhang Chuanliang, whom he calls Teacher Zhang. After eight days of competition, Zou’s cheeks had hollowed, and his smile was tired. “I’m hungry,” he said in Chinese.
Zou could feast now. He had won that day, gaining his second world championship and confirming his place as the first boxer in Chinese history to be considered a contender for an Olympic gold medal.