Mongolia's 'unbreakable flower' wrestles for Rio gold

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Battsetseg Soronzonbold Olympic wrestler
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Battsetseg Soronzonbold Olympic wrestler
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold (C) fights with her training partner during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold stretches ahead of a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold (front) fights with her training partner during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold (top) helps her teammate Cantuya Enkhbat stretch during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
A coach wraps bandage on the hand of Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's wrestler Oyuntuya Otgonbat (C) warms up ahead of a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Oyuntuya OtgoNbat (R) fights with her training partner during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's wrestler Sumiya Erdenechimeg (R) rests on her training partner's leg after a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
A training partner helps Mongolia's wrestler Sumiya Erdenechimeg stretch after a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Mongolia's wrestler Oyuntuya Otgonbat reacts as her teammate Sarankhuhuo Erdenetuya ties her hair before a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's wrestler Sumiya Erdenechimeg stretches her neck ahead of a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's wrestler Sumiya Erdenechimeg (L) fights with her training partner during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
A training partner of Mongolia's Olympic wrestler team climbs a rope during a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold walks toward the dormitory after a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold (L) and her teammate Sumiya Erdenechimeg are seen during an interview with Reuters on the grasslands after a daily training session outside the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold walks toward the dormitory after a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
A training partner of Mongolia's Olympic wrestler team does pull-ups after a daily training session outside the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
An outdoor training ground is seen among the grasslands at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
The Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre is seen among the grasslands in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Direction signs are seen at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's wrestler Cantuya Enkhbat prepares for a daily training session at the dormitory of the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Olympic wrestler Battsetseg Soronzonbold eats lunch after a daily training session at the Mongolia Womenâs National Wrestling Team training centre in Bayanzurkh district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee 
Mongolia's Battsetseg Soronzonbold celebrates her victory over Canada's Martine Dugrenier for the bronze medal of the Women's 63Kg Greco-Roman wrestling at the ExCel venue during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 8, 2012. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj 
Mongolia's Battsetseg Soronzonbold reacts after defeating Canada's Martine Dugrenier for the bronze medal of the Women's 63Kg Greco-Roman wrestling at the ExCel venue during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 8, 2012. REUTERS/Toru Hanai 
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ULAANBAATAR, July 5 (Reuters) - Battsetseg Soronzonbold became a national hero in her native Mongolia after winning wrestling bronze at the London Olympics and is determined to turn the medal into gold in Rio next month.

Born in a country with a long tradition of wrestling, the 26-year-old Battsetseg, whose name means "unbreakable flower," is currently training twice a day with about a dozen young men and women in a camp some 45 minutes drive from Ulaanbaatar.

The popularity of wrestling in the country of under three million people, sandwiched between Russia and China, is only paralleled by their love for horses, meat and an alcoholic mare's milk concoction called airag.

"From ancient times we have been a wrestling country," coach Sukhbataar said. "Mongolian women are like warriors - really strong - that's why traditionally it's easy for them to become successful wrestlers."

Grappling and hand-to-hand combat were ways for soldiers to keep strong when the Mongol horde led by 13th century conqueror Genghis Khan marched across Asia and reached the edges of Medieval Europe.

Mongolia these days has fans of K-pop and Hollywood superhero movies but wrestling is still revered.

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Battsetseg got hooked on the sport while in a hospital bed recovering from tonsil surgery.

"When I was watching TV, I saw these nice women wrestling, then I said to my teacher this is really nice," said Battsetseg.

"Because of that I decided to begin wrestling."

And the fact that being a female wrestler does not carry the same stigma in Mongolia as it might in other parts of the world, helped.

"Well you know people used to imagine (female) wrestlers as being big and chubby," said Battsetseg.

"Now things are very open, people are watching TV and they watch us, people say that we are nice girls, they don't say that we are like men."

A world champion in the under-59 kg class in 2010 and a household name after her London bronze at under 63 kg, Battsetseg thinks anything less than gold in Rio will be a disappointment.

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After that she hopes to marry the boyfriend with whom she sometimes tests out her moves.

"We practice the techniques," she said. "But because he's bigger than me I shouldn't practice too much with him."

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