Chinese freeski aerials set new milestone at Beijing 2022
Collecting two golds and one silver in three events of the Olympic free ski aerials, host China has become the biggest winner in the sport at Beijing 2022.
Writing down history on home snow, the seven-member freestyle ski aerials team, which is consisted of world champions and world-leading athletes, lived up to its name and promise.
The competitions were full of uncertainty and the road for the Chinese team to the peak was definitely not smooth.
Since Han Xiaopeng stunned the world by grabbing the men's aerials Olympic gold for China at Turin 2006, the Chinese team has been waiting for its second Olympic title for 16 years, despite being title favorites in every Winter Games.
Things did not work out from the very beginning as the Chinese team suffered a blow on February 10 when they missed the newly-added mixed team title, an odds-on for them, settling for the silver due to just one error-prone landing from four-time Olympian Jia Zongyang in the final.
Standing up to the pressure, Xu Mengtao, another four-time Olympian, pulled off the team's first big jump in women's aerials on February 14. At the age of 31, Xu won the first-ever Olympic gold for herself and also for the Chinese women's aerials squad with the world's top-notch trick of back-full-full-full.
The breathtaking big final witnessed that five of the six finalists threw the world's top-notch trick. In the end, only Xu succeeded.
Finishing her winning jump, Xu held high the national flag and whooped to the cheering crowd, "We win".
Trained as a gymnast from the age of four and switched to aerials skiing in 2001, Xu has been pursuing the Olympic top honor for 21 years.
This gold added brilliance to the five silver and two bronze medals the Chinese team won from all the Winter Olympics on their chase of the second Olympic gold in the past 16 years.
Another spectacular win came just two days later. Qi Guangpu, also a four-time Olympian at the age of 31, claimed the men's aerials gold with a near-perfect jump of back double full-full-double full which boasts of a difficulty degree of 5.000, the highest in the world so far.
Again, in the medal-deciding final, five of the six finalists threw the trick with a difficulty degree of 5.000 but only Qi made a complete finish with a score over 120.00 points - 129.00.
It's the seventh gold for China in the ongoing Beijing 2022, a record so far in its Winter Games history, and the fourth gold for China from snow sports.
In his dream to be an Olympic champion, Qi has shifted his gear from trampoline to free ski aerials around the age of 10. He has been keeping a low profile until Wednesday's shocking performance at the Genting Snow Park venue.
"Qi boasts of textbook technique. His movements are complete and he has mastered them perfectly," Li Nina, the Chinese women's aerials silver medalist at Torin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, once said.
Perseverance and Dedication
China, one of the powerhouses in the aerials, marked a huge milestone in its Olympic history and engraved the keyword "veteran", which is full of efforts, passions and injuries.
Freestyle skiing aerials became an official event of the Winter Olympic Games in 1994, several teenagers formed the first Chinese national team and started training from scratch in the same year.
At the Nagano Winter Olympics 1998, Xu Nannan took the women's aerials silver to open a new era of the Chinese snow sports, and new chapters were written constantly since then by more young talents at that time like Xu and Qi, who were inspired to engage in this sport.
Along with promoting the sport that requires more skills than strength, the Chinese team has won a total of three gold, seven silver and four bronze medals in Winter Olympics history.
Chinese athletes also made fast progress and remarkable World Cup performances. Li Nina had achieved three consecutive titles at the World Championships.
Among active women athletes, Xu has podium finishes in 49 of 71 career World Cup events, including 27 victories, making her one of the most decorated athletes in aerials, and Kong Fanyu is another Chinese female freeskier ranking second place in the World Cup now.
Chinese men's team with Sun Jiaxu, Jia Zongyang, Qi Guangpu and Wang Xindi also harvested plenty of medals in World Cup events to keep the Chinese team leading the field.
The great achievements need effort and bring injuries to these athletes since it's a sport full of risks. The 30-year-old Jia had 22 nails in his leg for injuries suffered from training, while many of his teammates have had major surgeries.
"The key factors for the team making today's great success are not only hard training and dedication but also advanced methods, systematic preparations and great health care. All of that brings a substantial change to our team," Xu said.
Maturity and Rationality
The changes also took place in the Chinese athletes' philosophy and sports fans' ideas.
"I am enjoying what I'm doing now, and have become more peaceful and steady," Xu said.
Although there is still a strong pursuit for athletes to stand on the top podium, and it takes generations to achieve it, gold-centric is not that popular in China.
People love to see the athletes enjoy the sport and have more fun from it. After Jia's error-prone landing resulted in missing the mixed team gold, millions of people tried to console him on the Internet. "You don't need to apologize" echoed most of the Chinese netizens.
The great team values inheritance. Xu didn't like to be called "veteran". "We don't feel age matters that much. The young skiers are influenced by the older generations just like us, and that is one of many important reasons for us sticking to it."
With the two gold and a silver here, the Chinese freestyle skiing aerials team reached a new milestone and made it a new origin. The inheritance of spirit is accumulated in the team, which enables the Chinese freestyle skiing aerials to rise and be always competitive in the world.