When freestyle aerialist Han Xiaopeng landed China's first ever Olympic snow gold on Thursday, Canadian coach Dustin Wilson knew he would have a place in the Chinese sports history.
The 33-year-old Wilson, a former World Cup aerialist for Canada and native of Edmonton, British Columbia, has guided China's budding aerial program to this abrupt maturity in two years.
After the usual hugging and screaming, team members locked arms and threw Wilson in the air several times, punctuating each heave with joyous shouts.
"Wilson is great, really great," exclaimed China's deputy chef-de-mission Cui Dalin.
Chinese netizens have already compared Wilson to Dr. Norman Bethune, a volunteer Canadian doctor in China during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945).
Wilson's contract ended on Thursday but he will stay with the Chinese team, probably for four more years, according to Cui.
Han, China's first male winter Olympic gold medalist, hailed Wilson as "an inspirational coach and a man of integrity."
"Before we did not know how to cooperate with a foreign coach," Han said. "But Wilson works very hard and very seriously. He always encourages us and explains why we must work hard. He is also a very kind man."
Wilson was helped by his compatriot Lucinda Rebecca Thomson, the team's fitness trainer, who impressed Chinese media by saying she was proud of Chinese women aerialists as team officials backed away from reporters following a near miss of gold on Wednesday.
Thomson was the first to compliment the women aerialists, who topped the first jumps but narrowly missed the gold after the second.
Wilson and Thomson were among a dozen foreign coaches and technicians employed to help raise Chinese winter sports to a higher standard.
Austrian Heinz Koch coaches the Chinese ski jump team with German Rene Altenburger-Koch in biathlon and Canadian Kevin Crockett in speed skating.
"China isn't a heavyweight in winter sports and we need foreign experience and expertise," said another Chinese deputy chef-de-mission Cai Zhenhua.
Cai, also Chinese table tennis chief, who is being nurtured to be a top sports official, said both Chinese winter and summer sports have benefited from foreign helps.
In the 2004 Summer Olympics, guided by Canadian coach Marek Ploch, Meng Guanliang and Yang Wenjun claimed China's first ever Olympic canoeing gold.
Kim Chang-back, former head coach of South Korea's field hockey team, was one of most extolled foreign coaches in China.
The South Korean used a rigorous training program to speed the Chinese women up the echelons of international field hockey and led the team to a fourth in the Athens Games.
Kim blamed himself for a miss of the podium, but he remains hugely popular with Chinese because he has single-handedly turned a flimsy team into a powerful medal contender.
China's only World Cup soccer experience was mainly credited to a Serbian coach.
Bora Milutinovic marshaled the Chinese team into the 2002 finals, following the failures by his two predecessors - Klaus Schlappner (Germany) and Bobby Houghton (Britain). The Chinese team's last foreign coach - Arie Haan of the Netherlands - was not as lucky as Milutinovic.
With the 2008 Olympics only two years away, Chinese officials plan to hire more foreign coaches to whip up Chinese athletes in form.
"We will employ more foreign coaches, technicians, nutritionists and other experts to help Chinese athletes," said China deputy chef-de-mission Cui Dalin.
(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2006)