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Don't mess with these Taiwanese women

Indoor tug of war? The key is good training. A little political trash talking doesn't hurt, either.

TAIPEI — Taiwan can't claim global dominance in many sports. But here's one: women's indoor tug of war.

It may sound like Asia's answer to Jamaican bobsledding. But don't laugh. The island's team takes the sport very seriously. And since 2005, they've been the best in the world at what they do.

They'll try to retain the gold at this summer's World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, against a strong team from Japan and, possibly, a rising rival: the rope-tugging ladies from China.

China's team hasn't yet decided if it's coming. If they do, it could set the stage for a repeat of last year's showdown in the World Indoor Championship in Italy.

That encounter quickly turned political — and ugly, according to Taiwan's coach and athletes.

It all started with a display of Taiwan's national flag. That's a no-no at international sporting events (Taiwan's coach said it was an honest mistake by the host).

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and strongly protests against the display of any flags or symbols suggesting Taiwan is a sovereign nation.

So Taiwan — or officially, the Republic of China — is forced to compete in the Olympics and other international events under the name "Chinese Taipei." It also uses a special flag featuring a plum blossom, Taiwan's national flower.

In Italy last year, the Chinese team protested loudly at the flag display, and then turned the flag around, according to Taiwan's team.

Then came the political trash-talking.

"They would say, 'you are a part of us,'" recalled Chen Li-hui, 26, a veteran of Taiwan's national team since 2000.

Big mistake. Taiwan's ladies didn't take kindly to such provocation.

"We could have beat them very quickly," said Chen. "But instead, we tortured them slowly before making them lose."