An Olympic shooter and her hero

A very interesting and inspirational story.

Lien Chao arrived in Canada in 1984 with $35 in her pocket and a desperate hope for some kind of equality.

She’d risked everything for a passport out of China, leaving her 9-year-old daughter Avianna behind at first, as she became one of the first self-sponsored students from her country to arrive here. With help from the visiting professor whose readings mesmerized her, she got a scholarship to study Canadian literature at York University.

She was an outcast in China, a strong-minded woman who refused to conform. As the first on her block to get a divorce, leaving an abusive husband, her neighbours spat on her for not just biting her tongue. When she went to get her belongings, bricks rained down in an ambush in which she was also attacked with metal bars.

“I could really have been killed that day,” she said.

She’d been a brilliant student, smart enough to attend Wuhan No. 2 boys’ school, where she not only bested the boys on math tests and essays but in foot races. But her dreams were crushed by the Cultural Revolution. She was designated a “bourgeois flower” because her father was an engineer, and consigned to hard toil in the countryside.

“I really wanted to get out, I really wanted to have this opportunity,” Chao said of coming to Canada. “I would pay anything. If they want my blood, I would give them my blood.”

Flash forward a quarter-century – to the unthinkable. Lien Chao is going back to China this summer to watch her daughter Avianna, now 33, compete for Canada as an Olympic pistol shooter.

Avianna picked up a gun only seven years ago, following her boyfriend into the sport, and now she’s an Olympian.

As Lien Chao quickly points out, the storyline could never have unfolded in China, where athletes are selected in childhood and groomed on a daily basis to become champions.

“It’s amazing, a miracle if you say; it’s a wonderful miracle, but it could only happen in Canada,” said Lien Chao.

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