Low-profile Chinese skier Qi Guangpu saves his best aerials at Beijing 2022

2022-02-18 07:25:14 GMT2022-02-18 15:25:14(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
Qi Guangpu of China celebrates after winning the freestyle skiing men's aerials final of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)  Qi Guangpu of China celebrates after winning the freestyle skiing men's aerials final of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

CHONGLI, Zhangjiakou, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- Chasing his Olympic dream for 22 years, Chinese veteran Qi Guangpu saved the best at the Beijing 2022 with his biggest smile all over his face as he stood atop the award ceremony for the men's aerials here on Wednesday evening.

It's first time for the 31-year-old Qi to be greeted with such a honor. During his previous three Olympic outings, he had his best fourth-place performance at Sochi 2014, besides finishing seventh twice at Vancouver 2010 and PyeongChang 2018.

In his dream to be an Olympic champion, Qi has shifted his gear from trampoline at age eight to free ski aerials two years later. He has been keeping a low profile until Wednesday when he stunned the world by clinching his first ever Olympic gold in his homeland.

For the Chinese male aerials skiers, this is the second Olympic gold after Han Xiaopeng made the breakthrough at Turin 2006, and the third gold for the Chinese aerials team with Xu Mengtao's crown in the women's event on Monday night.

And it's also China's fourth gold at the Games from snow sports, which is often considered as a weak point in China's winter sports. Prior to Beijing 2022, China's snow sporting efforts only witnessed one gold from Han.

Freestyle skiing aerials has become a gold mine for China at Beijing 2022, as China has taken two golds and one silver from three aerials events.

"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 Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010, once said.

In the breathtaking final on Wednesday night, Qi put down a brilliant trick of back double full-full-double full which boasts of a difficulty degree of 5.000, the highest in the world so far, scoring 129 points to top the podium.

In the medal-deciding final 2, five of the six athletes threw 5.000-difficulty-degree tricks, and only Qi made a complete finish with a 120-plus score.

"This is my fourth Olympics. I have learned a lot from the previous ones. This is just the right time for me to win the gold medal in China, my home country," Qi said.

"I did my best in the competition, almost every competitor did their best, so every trick was wonderful," he added.

In the two-jump final 1, eight athletes from the 12 finalists threw the same trick of back-full-double-full-full with a difficulty degree of 4.425, which has become a normal one for the men's aerials elites.

The high success rate, in the landing in particular, made the final 1 so tight that Qi's teammate Jia Zongyang, also a four-time Olympian, dropped to seventh with a poor landing in his second jump and was out of the final 2.

"Landing plays a leading role in such a high-level competition," said Qi.

Qi also welcomed a daughter in March 2019. "I have little time of accompanying my daughter these years due to a tight schedule of training. What I mostly want to do now is going back home to stay with my daughter and take care of her," Qi told a press conference.

When starting to practice the sport in 2000, Qi had an ambition of becoming an Olympic champion. Through 22 years of efforts, his dream has eventually come true.

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