TIANJIN, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- He used to be a shepherd boy tending his yaks at the foot of a mountain in Lhasa, Tibet, and Duobujie might have ended up farming like his parents. But running has put his life on a different path.
The 23-year-old Duobujie cemented his place as one of the greatest Tibetan athletes after clocking 28 minutes and 26.86 seconds to win Tibet's first track & field gold from the 10k event at China's National Games here in Tianjin.
"Glad to nail a gold for Tibet. It is very helpful to train with Ethiopian runners, and we learn a lot from them," said Duobujie, extending his sincere thanks to the Chinese Athletic Association (CAA), which supported his training overseas.
"The way the Ethiopians train is eye-opening for us. They arrange their training plans according to different environments."
In 2014, Duobujie started training in Ethiopia for several months every year with financial support from the CAA. Long-distance running is tedious, especially when training in a foreign country.
During the 2016 Rio Games, Duobujie became the first athlete from Tibet to contest track and field at the Olympics. He is also the second athlete from Tibet to participate in the Olympics, after Duoji Qiuyun took part in the archery event at the 1988 Olympics.
In Rio, Duobujie finished his second marathon in 2:24:22.
Growing up in a small village surrounded by mountains in Dazi County of Lhasa, Duobujie used to herd yaks and dig certain kinds of fungi for sale.
"There might be some talent in my family blood. I feel inspired to win whenever standing at the starting line," said Duobujie. "I always finished first in the running event when I was at primary school, of course without real training."
During his first year of middle school in 2009, Duobujie was drafted into the running team of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
"My teacher said that you should focus on your study because you're not chosen by the athletics team. But it was a joke," Duobujie told Xinhua.
It was unthinkable for a young Duobujie that he would travel to so many cities in the future as an athlete, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, South Korea's Incheon and even Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
When Duobujie left his village to get training in Lhasa, he had the chance to use a big sport court with real rubber-floored 400m track.
"I never dreamed of running on such a good track. It felt amazing and I was so curious about how they made the track," he laughed.
In fact, Duobujie, a football lover, knew little about long-distance running before he was chosen to take training.
"I am content with the admission, because when you choose to run, you should fight to be the best," Duobujie was also clear about his championship dream. "Coach Gesang Ciren is really kind, and I do not want to let him down."
Athletic shoes are something new to Duobujie. When he had a pair of such shoes in Lhasa, the shoes served him for more than one year. He spent a total of six yuan from his extra money to repair the shoes.
"It was my first pair of athletic shoes. It suited me well," Duobujie added.
In 2011, Duobujie left Tibet for the first time to compete in Jinan, Shandong province, and then traveled to Beijing.
"It was like dreaming when I saw Tiananmen Square," Duobujie said, grinning.
Duobujie noted that he usually runs over 40km each day for practice. For Duobujie, marathon is much more demanding than that of the 10k, but it is easier to reach the Olympic final in marathon.
Duobujie says coach Gesang Ciren always encourages his athletes to strive to earn honor for their country and their families.
"He takes full care of us, just like our father. My parents tell me to turn on your coach for advice always if needed," Duobujie said with eyes watering.
After Duobujie won the gold, he called his parents to tell them about the medal. Due to his training plan, Duobujie has traveled a lot with few reunions with family.
"We know about his competition arrangement, so we did not want to disturb him. I was not crying, but my wife cried for joy," said his father Xiwang over receiving his son's call.
An episode of Duobujie winning the gold is now stored in Xiwang's phone. Xiwang says he has watched it numerous times, and Duobujie's mother Quyang is in tears whenever she reviews it.
"I am very proud of him," said Quyang. "I also miss him very much."
Though the Rio trip was not quite pleasant for Duobujie, he still keeps his dream to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Games.
"I have a dream and it is running. I want to make the final eight in the next Olympic Games," he prospected.