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High-flyer Liu back on medal trail

Canadian coach helping Chinese star add to her arsenal of tricks and flips in time for 2026 Olympics

XINHUA | Updated: 2024-02-21 08:53
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Liu Jiayu in action. XINHUA

Having competed at the elite level of halfpipe snowboarding for 15 years, Canadian Derek Livingston had two third-place finishes at World Cup events but never came close to an Olympic medal.

Now, as the freshman coach of Chinese snowboarder Liu Jiayu, the 33-year-old Livingston can once again dream of making the podium at the Olympics.

Four-time Olympian Liu, 32, took a halfpipe silver medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games — to date, the best-ever Olympic result by a female Chinese snowboarder. She returned from a one-year break last September after being introduced to Livingston in Whistler, Canada.

Last Friday, Liu captured halfpipe silver at China's 14th National Winter Games.

"Back in the summer, Jiayu was living in Whistler. That's where I live and we have mutual friends who connected us. I just started taking some coaching courses and had just retired from competitive snowboarding. And Jiayu was looking for a new coach because she's starting to get back into competing after taking a year off after the (Beijing 2022) Olympics," Livingston said.

He delivered a positive appraisal of his first trainee and said he has high hopes for Liu in the future.

"Working with Jiayu has been great. She's a very hardworking athlete and she's one of the best female snowboarders out there," Livingston said.

Liu Jiayu's silver medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games remains the best Olympic result to date by a female Chinese snowboarder. XINHUA

"She's really dedicated to pushing hard and working through adversity and wanting to be one of the best. We've had a really good season, and that is especially after her taking such a long break from competing, coming back strong, getting a second place at Secret Garden (FIS snowboard halfpipe World Cup in Chongli in December), and then continuing that here with another second place," he added.

Looking forward to the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics, Livingston said he hopes to help Liu make consistent progress and reach the podium again.

"She had a great result back in Pyeongchang 2018, and she's still up there as one of the best female snowboarders. So all she has to do is to keep doing what she's doing, keep training," he said.

"We're learning some new tricks and trying to build that into her run. With these new tricks, she will be a medal contender at the next competition, at the next Olympics.

"I believe Jiayu has the potential to win another medal for China at the next Olympics if she wants to keep going. The biggest thing is an athlete winning a medal there."

Livingston added that he believes himself capable of developing Liu into a better athlete, especially by working on her mental focus, consistency and more advanced tricks.

"One thing that we discussed is that I just recently finished my competitive career and I have experience with doing these bigger tricks and that's where she wants a little bit of guidance and help. And that's where and what I can bring to the table along with knowing how to be in a competitive situation and knowing how to deal with the stresses and the highs and lows of competing."

The Canadian is confident that, by putting in the requisite work, especially on the mental side of things, Liu possesses the talent to top the podium at the Olympics in two years' time.

"Jiayu is a very experienced competitor herself, so I think we can work together well to improve on her mental focus, on her consistency inside the competition scene," he said.

"Bringing along my experience with the bigger, more difficult tricks, and knowing what they feel like, what to look out for, I believe I can help her achieve those goals of learning those new double corks. And with those tricks, I think she definitely has potential to win a gold medal.

"Me as a coach, that's obviously a goal. It's a dream to be able to coach an athlete to win a gold medal. Obviously I'm just starting out, but we'll see where the world takes us in the future."

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