Beyond record golds, China witnesses inspiring breakthroughs at Beijing 2022
China tallied nine golds and 15 medals overall at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, both record highs for it at a single Winter Olympics.
Beyond sporting excellence, the host nation also received huge inspiration in different aspects.
Dispatching the largest ever 388-member contingent, including 177 athletes competing in 104 events of 15 disciplines across seven sports, China aimed to achieve its best-ever results in Olympic history at Beijing 2022.
Snow sports was a comparatively weak point for China in the past, contributing only one of the 13 golds prior to the Beijing Games, which came from Han Xiaopeng's success in the men's aerials freestyle skiing at Turin 2006.
But the tide turned this time, as China has won five out of the nine gold medals in snow sports.
With the emergence of teenage sensation Gu Ailing and Su Yiming, Team China has gained a strong boost in snow sports.
Gu stomped a double cork 1620 safety grab, a move she had never done in previous competitions, to win the women's freeski big air gold medal, becoming Team China's first female gold medalist on snow.
She added a silver medal in slopestyle, before wrapping up her Olympic debut with a gold in her most proficient halfpipe event.
At 18 years and 168 days, Gu is the youngest athlete to win three individual medals at the Olympic Winter Games. She also becomes the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Winter Olympics.
"It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I've ever experienced in my life. It has changed my life forever," said Gu.
Another prodigy shining in snow sports is Su Yiming, who turned 18 on Friday.
Following a silver in slopestyle, which made him the first Chinese male snowboarder to reach the Olympic podium, Su bagged a big air gold with two 1800 showpieces, the best birthday gift for the snowboarding boy. At 17 years and 363 days, Su becomes the youngest Chinese athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games.
Having already secured his gold, Su slid down with probably the easiest trick he could do to conclude his first Olympic appearance.
"All I thought was to enjoy that run and enjoy the most precious and beautiful moment of my life," Su told Xinhua.
While youngsters are on the rise, veterans' stories of persisting in chasing their dreams offer more motivation.
Freestyle skiers Xu Mengtao and Qi Guangpu, both competing in their fourth Olympics, finally realized their golden dream in the women's and men's aerials events, after joining their efforts to claim a silver in the mixed team's Olympic debut together with Jia Zongyang, also a four-time Olympian.
Taking up aerials skiing in 2001, Xu has seen her 21 years of effort to pursue top honors come to fruition.
After the race, Ashley Caldwell of the United States rushed to congratulate her close friend Xu.
"Taotao, Olympic champion! I'm so proud of you!" exclaimed Caldwell.
Australian ace Laura Peel added, "Taotao is an incredible athlete. She's been at the top of the sport for a long time, so I really respect her."
With tears in her eyes, Xu waved the national flag after the race, whooping "I won!"
On the ice rink, the Chinese short-track speed skating team, which has won at least one gold medal in each Games since Salt Lake City 2002 to tally 10, claimed two golds in Beijing.
In the 2,000m mixed team relay debut at the Olympics, China's quartet of Fan Kexin, Qu Chunyu, Ren Ziwei and Wu Dajing stormed to a thrilling victory and awarded China's first gold at these Games.
Later in the men's 1,000m race, China had a one-two finish, as Ren clinched his first individual gold medal and was followed by Li Wenlong, another post-2000s athlete. China also won a bronze in the women's 3,000m relay.
Speed skater Gao Tingyu fulfilled his determination of changing his medal color from the bronze he won four years ago in PyeongChang with his triumph in the 500m in an Olympic record time, becoming the first Chinese male Olympic champion in speed skating.
"I said it, and I made it," said Gao.
Sui Wenjing and Han Cong earned China its record ninth gold at the Games in the pairs figure skating on Saturday. After missing out on gold with a mere deficit of 0.43 points at PyeongChang 2018, the two-time world champions made their way to the top of the podium four years later, winning by 0.63 points.
"I accepted what has been given to me from the world, because I think everything has its rightful place," said Sui, who underwent foot surgery after PyeongChang 2018.
A new chapter was also written in sliding sports. Yan Wengang won a bronze in the men's skeleton, the first medal for China in any sliding sport. And it becomes particularly precious given that Chinese athletes only made their Olympic debut in the discipline at PyeongChang 2018.
Besides winning medals, China has witnessed many breakthroughs in the Olympic history, including first-time appearances in 35 out of the 104 events that Chinese athletes featured at Beijing 2022.
Zhao Jiawen finished 43rd in the individual normal hill/10km event, becoming the first-ever Chinese athlete to finish a Nordic combined competition at a Winter Olympics.
"If we can compete in the next Winter Olympics, we will definitely achieve a greater breakthrough," said an upbeat Zhao.
Kong Fanying finished 15th in the women's Alpine combined to record China's best result in Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics.
As the first Chinese luger to compete on the Olympic stage, Fan Duoyao hopes that more people get to know this sport through this Games, and support China to go forward.
In addition to glittering performances from a sporting standpoint, Chinese athletes also showcased an appreciative image to the world.
After their mixed doubles curling competition, the Chinese duo of Fan Suyuan and Ling Zhi offered a set of pins featuring Games mascot Bing Dwen Dwen to their American peers Victoria Persinger and Christopher Plys.
"The pins are beautiful and so special. We'll remember this forever," said Persinger.
It was memorable for Su to compete with his "idols and heroes" as well as winning a slopestyle silver.
Walking off the podium, Su went directly to hug champion Max Parrott first and then bronze medalist Mark McMorris, before the three took a group photo with hands on each other's shoulders.
Su saluted his two rivals, both from Canada, calling them his idols and heroes lighting up his road to the Olympics.
"It's amazing to be an idol of someone really special," McMorris responded.
Following their achievements and breakthroughs at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese athletes should have reasons to feel optimistic about their future Olympic journey.