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A Su lease of life

Fully recharged from his Beijing 2022 heroics, Su Yiming's bid for more Olympic glory is off to a scintillating start

Updated: 2024-02-27 08:59
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Su Yiming in action during men's snowboard big air final at China's 14th National Winter Games in Hulun Buir, North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Feb 23, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

After his remarkable success at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Su Yiming took some time off, embracing the quiet away from the spotlight.

The break allowed Su, who won Big Air gold and slopestyle silver at Beijing 2022, a chance to recuperate and reflect as he recharged his batteries by enjoying sports like surfing.

Su has been reaping the benefits of that downtime in the 2023-24 season — securing a gold and a silver medal on the highly competitive FIS World Cup circuit, and last week bagging two golds at China's ongoing National Winter Games.

After turning 20 this month, Su has his sights firmly set on the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Olympics. "My goal remains unchanged, which is to win the Olympic gold," he said.

However, Su acknowledges that the preparations for his second Winter Olympics will be significantly more challenging than those for Beijing 2022.

Su ends his run during the men's snowboard Big Air final at the National Winter Games. [Photo/Xinhua]

"I was a debutant at Beijing 2022. Now, not only my body but also my mentality, along with various factors off the snow, will make the preparations for the next Olympics even more challenging," he admitted.

The emotional release after his victories at the National Winter Games was palpable. There were tears in his eyes as he embraced his family after the Big Air event, and he jubilantly tossed his snowboard into the air after claiming slopestyle gold.

Fraught with the pressure of being an Olympic champion, and dealing with an ankle injury and unpredictable weather, Su's National Winter Games campaign was clearly more burdensome than his Beijing 2022 experience.

The pressure will likely now be a constant companion throughout his career, but his maturity at such a young age suggests he will cope.

Asked to describe himself, Su replied: "A perfectionist, a person eager for victory, and a thoughtful individual."

"In training, I am a perfectionist, wanting to execute every move flawlessly," he added.

However, he is also prepared to compromise between the pursuit of perfection and the necessity of pragmatism. This was evident at the National Winter Games, where he had to lower the difficulty of his jumps and tricks, even if it meant finishing in a way he didn't favor.

Situations requiring a quick change of mindset may have left him conflicted, but this realism is inherent in competitive sports.

"I am very eager for results. In competitions, I am very determined to win gold. I will spare no effort, giving my all to get the gold medal," said Su.

While the public tends to view snowboarding as a daredevil sport, Su insists he is "not much of a risk-taker", at least in terms of his choice of tricks. "Every new move I attempt, every decision I make is thoroughly considered," he explained

This approach aligns with the image Su has crafted for himself since the Beijing Winter Olympics. Whether standing calmly on the sidelines or exuding intense emotions, he radiates a mature and composed demeanor, displaying an aura that belies his age.

"I am more mature now, especially in terms of my mindset," Su stated.

In the world of elite snowboarding, athletes often shoot to fame in their teens.

Su now faces challenges from even younger competitors, transitioning from super rookie to a target for other athletes.

"Seeing the performances of these teenagers, I still want to keep my skills at the highest level and it requires significant effort," Su said.

These days, each FIS World Cup stop features fields of up to 60 athletes, and the difficulty level of jumps and tricks is on the rise. Jumps once deemed worthy of gold medals, such as the 1440-degree spin, are now demoted to the warm-up routine.

"But I believe that snowboarding is not merely a sport driven solely by the pursuit of difficulty. It's also important to infuse one's understanding of riding styles in competitions," said Su, promising that at the 2026 Winter Olympics fans can expect more creative moves from him which have been inspired by his travels.

"I went to many places, met many people, and experienced various things, gaining a deeper understanding of my life. These experiences are interconnected with snowboarding. Many snowboarding moves and principles are derived from these experiences," he explained.

Back on the training ground, Su is continuously experimenting with new skills and styles. Training with some of the sport's best athletes, Su and his practice crew form a passionate group dedicated to improving their riding and understanding of snowboarding.

"We are the first ones up the mountain in the morning, and we keep practicing until the sun sets, only coming down when the slopes close," he said.

Beyond the slopes, Su says he is eager to explore the new avenues that fame presents. "Anything is possible for me," he said.

But while he's keen for adventure, Su also values his stature as a role model for young people. He established a charity fund in 2023, aiming to promote the development of youth sports education.

"As a snowboarder, an athlete, I always want to achieve better results in competitions," he said. "And I also have an important task to promote snowboarding, allowing more people to understand and embrace the sport."


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