Choeyang Kyi grew up herding yaks on a plateau meadow, just like many other women from rural Tibet. Singing and praying accounted for much of her spare time. And it was not until 2008 that she got the chance to watch the Olympic Games.
In 2012, the 22-year-old has etched her name into history as China's first Tibetan Olympic medalist, having secured a bronze medal in the women's 20-km race walk event at the London Games, Xinhua reports.
"I had only one thought in mind -- fight! The crowds were so enthusiastic. That helped me stay in high spirits," Choeyang said after the race.
Chinese fans have hailed her success, flooding her account on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging site.
"Last night, all of the Tibetans here stayed up and watched your game on the track. We were thrilled to see you win a medal. Tashi delek (blessings)! Hope you can bring more glory to the Tibetan people," wrote microblogger Kelsanga.
"She smiled a lot during the final 20 km. But I was almost thrilled to tears," wrote blogger "Xiaoye Q" from northeast China.
Feng Jianping, director of the Qinghai provincial sports bureau, hailed Choeyang as "the pride of Qinghai, of Tibetans and of China."
Choeyang's parents watched their daughter make history in their rural home in Haiyan county, located in the Haibei Tibetan autonomous prefecture in northwest China's Qinghai province. Although they were unable to understand the Mandarin-speaking commentator, Gonpo Rabten and Sonamje stared at the TV, fingering prayer beads and chanting Buddhist sutras.
When Choeyang crossed the finish line, her parents smiled, tears welling up in their eyes. Cheers and applause could be heard breaking out in the tents that make up their herding community on the Jinyintan pasture.
Choeyang said she has missed her parents a great deal, as she has not been home for a long time due to her training.
"My blessings go to my parents and every single one of my supporters," she said.
Choeyang, whose name in Tibetan means "the sun," cited renowned Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang as her idol.
"Liu Xiang is the model for Chinese track athletes. He has done his best and he has my full support," she added.