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Persistence of Olympic veterans inspires netizens
2022-02-21 16:56:31

Gold Medallists Zhang Yuting of China, Wu Dajing of China, Ren Ziwei of China, Qu Chunyu of China and Fan Kexin of China celebrate on the podium during the victory ceremony at Beijing Medals Plaza, Beijing,China, Feb 6, 2022. [Photo by Feng Yongbin/chinadaily.com.cn]

Throughout the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the performances of many Chinese athletes have captivated and inspired the nation.

On social media platforms, netizens have heaped praise on and shown support for their favorite athletes, medalists or not, who have demonstrated the Olympic spirit by challenging themselves and never giving in.

While the success of freestyle skiing prodigy Gu Ailing, a dual gold medalist, seems unattainable to most Chinese, many said they could better relate to and were more inspired by veteran champions like Fan Kexin and Xu Mengtao.

Fan and Xu's demonstration of persistence, confidence, and never-say-die spirit at the Games and their humble family backgrounds have prompted many Chinese people to pursue their own dreams through hard work, they said.

Although Xu and Fan have each won multiple world championships, their quests for Olympic gold were not smooth journeys.

Xu, 31, won gold in the women's freestyle skiing aerials on Feb 14 after finishing sixth at Vancouver 2010, winning silver at Sochi 2014 and finishing ninth at Pyeongchang 2018.

At her third try, short track speed skater Fan, 29, won an Olympic gold medal in the mixed team relay on Feb 5.

Both champions are from less privileged backgrounds. Fan's parents used to run a shoe repair shop in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang province, while Xu's family had to make a living from a barbecue stall in Anshan, Liaoning province, according to local media reports.

Fan's family moved to Qitaihe from Boli county, Heilongjiang, when she was in primary school after they went into debt due to a business failure. They only had 300 yuan ($47.4) and rented a six-square-meter warehouse, where they lived and repaired shoes, Heilongjiang Daily reported.

Fan gave up dancing due to the relatively high costs of training, and was selected by her first ice skating coach, Ma Qingzhong, who promised to not charge any fees as long as she worked hard.

In an interview with China Central Television, Fan said when she first started ice skating, her family could not afford a pair of skates, which cost 2,500 yuan-almost the whole family's living expenses for a year.

She said she put a lot of pressure on herself as she wanted to achieve good performances and improve her family's living conditions.

After winning bronze in the women's 3,000-meter relay on Feb 13, Fan kissed the rink, a moment that touched the hearts of many people and quickly became a trending topic on the Sina Weibo micro-blogging platform.

Xu Mengtao of China celebrates after the freestyle skiing women's aerials final at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei province, on Feb 14, 2022. [Photo by Wei Xiaohao/chinadaily.com.cn]

"I kissed the ice because I love short track so much," she told reporters. "I love the event we were competing in. Thanks to everything, thanks to the competition, my teammates and the rink."

"I immediately cried when I saw her kissing the ice," said one netizen.

Another said: "The Olympics are much more than gold medals. All the efforts and persistence shown by the athletes are worthy of respect."

For Xu, there have also been emotional moments. "Have I won? Have I won?" she screamed repeatedly after winning gold in the women's aerials.

"I just wanted to do the best tricks I could and I did it," she said. "I'm super excited about winning the first gold medal in women's aerials for China."

Xu was chosen as a flag-bearer for the Chinese delegation at the Games' closing ceremony on Sunday.

She started to practice gymnastics at the age of 4 and transferred to freestyle skiing at 12. Her sports career has been accompanied by many injuries. Ligaments in both her legs have ruptured twice, necessitating four rounds of major surgery.

Her father said Xu often helps run errands at the barbecue shop after training, even after winning many world championships.

Xu told Netease News that her parents are her biggest motivation. "I want them to live a better life and not need to work so hard, so I just kept telling myself that I need to train hard," she said.

Xu has also become a fan favorite on social media platforms. Hashtags about her winning and videos of the hardships behind her success garnered hundreds of millions of views.

No one can achieve success easily, Beijing Evening News said in an editorial, noting that Xu's gold medal was achieved through persistence, determination, overcoming injuries and never bowing to hardships.

Her success has transcended sports, and her story will motivate more athletes and ordinary people to pursue their own dreams, it said.

Source:China Daily 

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