A pale green, circular jade stone accentuated the silver medal that hung from the neck of Bellingham's Katie Brown.
The jewel was a memento - a keep-sake to remind Brown of her ascension in the 5,000-year-old art of Kung Fu, Shuai Jiao.
"It felt like this was what I was working toward all these years," said Brown, who is a teacher at Shuksan Middle School.
She, along with nearly 30 teammates on the U.S.A. Shuai Jiao team, traveled to Yixing, China March 22-24 to compete in the International World Shuai Jiao Championships. Twenty countries representing six continents participated in the three-day event.
"Whenever someone asks me, 'what is Shuai Jiao?' It simply is in translation, Chinese wrestling," Brown said with a bubbly, almost too-excited-to-hold smile.
The purpose of the sport is to get an opponent to the ground and receive either one-point, two-point or three-point throws.
Brown said she practiced Shuai Jiao for seven years before going to China with the sole goal of competing against the Chinese.
"You can sense the experience of the Chinese fighters - the intentions of what they do," Brown said. "Any time you are fighting against the Chinese, you are considered the underdog."
After winning her opening-round bout, Brown got her wish and squared off against one of the finest Chinese fighters in her 149-pound weight class.
After the first of two 3-minute halves, Brown found herself down by four points.
"In my head, I was saying you can do this. You have to figure a way to throw her," she said.
Stepping back onto the mat, Brown and the U.S. team coach, Jan-Yu Weng, noticed the Chinese competitor was visibly tired. Brown's condition was far better, and every order Weng shouted to her, Brown executed with precision.
"You feel like you're playing a video game when someone is following exactly every move you ask, and it is working," Weng said in a phone interview.
Brown closed the gap and finished with a flurry of one-point throws to defeat the winded Chinese fighter.
"She was tired, and I was tired, and it was brute strength," she said. "The last two, I just slammed her to the mat."
After the Browns' 8-7 victory, Canadian national coach Jay McCoy approached Brown with a swell of emotions.
"Jay said 'that was the most amazing match I have ever seen; I literally was about to cry,'" she said. "He had tears in his eyes because it was such a great match. It was one of the most incredible matches they had ever seen, someone coming from behind to beat China."
Brown fell in the gold-medal match 5-2 to another Chinese fighter that, Weng explained, was just a little bit better.
Upon returning, Brown made sure her English Language students knew of her accomplishments.
One student, Brown said, asked one of the teachers, "If Ms. Brown is a world champion, why is she teaching here?"
The witty teacher responded, "We only hire world-class teachers at Shuksan."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.