Huang Zhihong speaks spontaneously, like somebody just out of solitary confinement. She sings spontaneously, too. Huang, the women's world champion in the shot put, did some extemporaneous crooning last fall at a Karaoke songathon attended by nearly 10,000 of the People's Republic's people.
"She had the worst voice, positively," says Yang Yingming, a Chinese sports editor. "But everyone liked her the best."
"I sound like a cow," offers Huang, through a translator.
"Not a cow," corrects Yang. "Like every barnyard animal combined!"
Huang laughs. She's a splendidly ample woman—220 pounds on a 5'7" frame—with a good, strong face: smooth, clear skin; lively, vivid eyes.
Called Lao Huang (Old Huang) because she's still competing at the ancient age of 27, she is, according to one Chinese sports official, "remarkable for her harmonious movements, strength and swift throws." Swift and very long throws, actually. At the 1989 World Cup in Barcelona, her heave of 68'�" earned her a gold medal, the first ever by an Asian in a World Cup track and field event, and she struck gold again with a throw of 68'4�" at last year's world championships in Tokyo. And though she has a good chance to become the first Chinese track and field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, her coach, Kan Fulin, says, "Neither Huang nor I places much importance in winning the gold. We believe victory in competition is the reward for difficult training, much like a farmer reaps a good harvest after a year's hard work in the field."
Huang takes an equally Maoist approach toward her accomplishments. "Results are results," she says. "What I have done is no more newsworthy than if I had swallowed 500 eels."
As a kid, Huang used to get teased about her weight. "What kind of athlete are you?" classmates would ask.
"I'm a marathoner," she would say.
"How can that be?"