Chinese teen Su Yiming takes silver in Olympic slopestyle
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — When he was a kid, Su Yiming was an aspiring actor who landed a part in an action film: “The Taking of Tiger Mountain.”
On Monday, Su found an even better role: A snowboarder who wins a surprise Olympic silver medal in his home country.
The 17-year-old actor-turned-professional snowboarder could hardly mask his emotion over his biggest moment on snow, or screen.
“This means a lot to me,” Su said after his second-place finish in slopestyle. “One of the special things in my life, for sure.”
Almost as special was hearing one of his idols, bronze medalist Mark McMorris, gush about him from just two seats away in the post-contest news conference. Su kept glancing over at McMorris as the Canadian snowboarder reminisced about how they first met years ago and how proud he was.
By the time McMorris finished, Su was almost beaming.
“He’s grown into a strong, strong snowboarder and I’m just proud of him to do so well today in his home country,” said McMorris, who used a strong final run to earn a bronze for a third straight Olympics. “He’s a true snowboarder. He loves it as much as anyone and seeing him as a young kid to now, it’s been pretty special.”
It was easy to see Su’s love of the sport as he made his way down the course with the few fans who were allowed in cheering wildly on all his runs. He smiled, raised his arms in the air, formed his hands into the shape of a heart.
Su captured a big air title in a World Cup event in Colorado earlier this winter. Any doubt about his intentions for an Olympics on home turf were put to rest Sunday, when he was the only rider in qualifications to try a triple cork — the sort of trick most competitors save for the medal round.
That triple cork put him in a great position. He finished qualifying in first, which put him last in the lineup on Monday. He was the final rider with a chance to top the day’s winner, Max Parrot of Canada.
He couldn’t, but it hardly felt like a disappointment. He covered his goggles with both hands in disbelief after he completed his final jump.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Su, who turns 18 on Feb. 18.
Part of China’s mission in bringing the Winter Games to Beijing was to lure more people up to the mountains. Someday, the thought is, this country of 1.4 billion could be a snowboarding power. If that happens, Su could very well be the impetus of it all. He is the first man in his country to win a snowboarding medal.
It was the chance for this sort of glory that pushed him to choose snow over film.
“I like both,” said Su, who was born in Jilin, which is about 670 miles (1,079 kilometers) away from Beijing. “I had a chance to compete in the Olympic Games in my home (country). So I decided to be a pro snowboarder and focus more on snowboarding.”
The moment was a little overwhelming, though.
“I feel pressure for sure, but when I saw my fans and everybody supporting me, I just got to enjoy it as much as I could,” said Su, who’s scheduled to compete in the big air competition in Beijing, with qualifying Monday and finals the following day. “I’m having fun and doing my best for everybody.”
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