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Li wants to challenge the greats

Updated: 2014-02-22 07:57
By Lei Lei in Sochi, Russia ( China Daily)

Li Zijun, China's new figure skating hope, realizes there is a gap to be closed if she hopes to challenge the skaters she currently admires in the future.

"I have learned a lot at the Olympic Games here," said Li, 17, after finishing 14th in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games women's figure skating singles event on Thursday.

"All the skaters here are of a high level and I have learned from their fighting spirit in competition and training. I know there is a big gap between me and the world's top skaters in terms of experience, program elements and artistic performances. I have to work harder when I go back home," she said.

 Li wants to challenge the greats

Li Zijun of China competes in the free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on Thursday. Li finished 14th and her teammate Zhang Kexin was 15th. Bernat Armangue / Associated Press

During the free skating event on Thursday night, Li competed against almost all of the world's best skaters, including defending Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, world champions Carolina Kostner of Italy and Mao Asada of Japan, as well as home favorites Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaia.

Sotnikova dethroned figure skating queen Kim to win Russia its first Olympic women's singles gold medal. Kim and Kostner finished second and third.

Asada ended up sixth due to poor performances in the short program.

"I didn't do my best in the competition here as I was a little nervous," Li said.

"I had to stop my preparations for the Sochi Games due to injury in the latter half of last year, which affected my systematic training. I was not in my best form here."

After picking up figure skating at the age of six, Li's career progressed smoothly until the injury last year.

She won the junior national championship title at the age of 11 and was sent to the US to train with legendary Chinese coach, Li Mingzhu, in 2008.

Li wants to challenge the greats

Li Mingzhu guided China's Chen Lu to the country's first women's singles world championship and Olympic bronze in the 1990s.

Li Zijun won bronze at the ISU Junior Grand Prix finals in 2010 and the 2012 Innsbruck World Youth Winter Olympic Games.

She was seventh at the 2013 World Championships, her first senior worlds, and was one of two tickets earned by China for the Sochi Games.

Teammate Zhang Kexin, who finished 15th at the Olympics believes Li Zijun is the one who will recapture China's glory days in the event.

South Korea's Kim is also a believer.

"Li will shine four years later at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics," she said.

Former champion Chen also has high hopes for Li.

"Li has adopted my relaxed skating style and showed very good form in Sochi," Chen said. "We can expect her to return China to the top of the world."

(China Daily 02/22/2014 page16)