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Zhu looks to future with confidence after difficult debut

China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-17 09:11
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Zhu Yi of China performs during the figure skating women single skating short program at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, capital of China, Feb 15, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Zhu Yi is determined to build on her debut Winter Olympics, saying the trials and tribulations of the campaign have taught her how to handle pressure.

Encouraged by her family, coaches and teammates, the 19-year-old figure skater rebounded from shaky routines in the team competition to perform more steadily in the women's singles short program on Tuesday.

Although a score of 53.44 points was not enough to see her through to Thursday's free skate, Zhu said she enjoyed the competition and used the criticism leveled at her on social media as motivation.

"I always remind myself to be relaxed, and after successfully landing the first triple jump, I knew I could do it," Zhu said after the short program, in which she finished 27th out of the 30 competitors to conclude her Olympic debut at the Capital Indoor Stadium.

While doing the same program in her very first Olympic competition on Feb 6 for the team event, Zhu fell attempting a triple jumps combination and later missed another triple jump, earning 47.03 points. In the team event free skate the following day, she fell twice again, although managed to improvise and turn a triple toeloop into a triple-double combination.

She finished bottom of the rankings for both routines, and afterward burst into tears.

Some harsh criticism on social media compounded the pressure on her young shoulders.

Zhu admitted that some of the comments online were hurtful, but thanks to the support of the people around her, she's become an altogether more resilient character and has vowed to continue to chase her Olympic dream.

"It did hurt me a little bit, but of course I was able to view it from a different perspective and just use it to my own advantage," said Zhu.

"I blocked those words from the internet and tried to forget about them. I turned to drawing, especially drawing the sky which I love to do, and this made me feel better and focus only on my training.

"I'm grateful to the coach, the team leader and my parents. They reminded me that I was working really hard, and simply by being in the Olympic competition I had already proved myself."

Team China's freeski superstar Gu Ailing was among a number of athletes to jump to Zhu's defense.

"Skating is really admirable, and she also has to do all these difficult movements wearing blades," said Gu, 18, who so far has won freeski Big Air gold and slopestyle silver at the Games.

"Mistakes and pressure are all part of competition. Everyone needs to understand that all the athletes are trying their best."

Yang Yang, China's first Winter Olympic gold medalist, also stood by Zhu.

"Both success and failure are learning experiences in competition. The spectators should respect and encourage the athletes, who are trying their best," the former short-track speed skater said.

Zhu talked to a psychologist on the phone to help her deal with the aftermath of the team event, and now seems determined to put that disappointment behind her.

"I was not satisfied with my previous performances and felt very sad and a little bit shameful. But all of the support and encouragement helped me a great deal. I'm very grateful to everyone who helped me," she said after the short program in the individual event.

Zhu was born and raised in California to Chinese parents. She started skating at the age of 7 in the US, winning the novice title at the 2018 US national championships in San Jose. The following year, she was naturalized as a Chinese citizen and went to China to train at the end of March last year.

Zhu said the transition from the US to China was tough at the very beginning, but described it as "an amazing experience". She added that she is proud to be Chinese-American and was thrilled to represent China at the Games, and plans to continue to do so.

"I know China is not that strong in women's singles, but we have many athletes attempting to raise the standard. I hope I can perform well for China in future competitions."

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