A shy star thrust into the Games' spotlight

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, February 22, 2010
Adjust font size:

Zhou Yang is a humble girl and shy, almost painfully so.

She is also now an Olympic champion.

On Sunday night, the 18-year-old from Jilin province shocked the world by claiming gold in the women's 1,500m short-track speed skating final.

After the race, she seemed to be battling emotions of elation and coyness.

It was up to her coach, Li Yan, to describe the rise of his introverted protege.

"Zhou always makes progress quietly and seems to be a gentle girl in daily life. But she has a strong will and always wants to skate well," Li said. "I encouraged her to take some risks in the final and she did it successfully."

Although being the world record holder over the distance, Zhou was not considered the favorite before the event, which also featured her teammate, Wang Meng, who claimed the 500m gold in Vancouver, and three highly-ranked South Koreans.

However, Wang was surprisingly disqualified in the semis after bumping Katherine Reutter when the American overtook her for second around the final turn on the next-to-last lap.

Reutter crashed into the sideboards, taking along with her front-running Cho Ha-ri of South Korea. Wang also slid into the boards.

After a meeting, the referees disqualified Wang and allowed Cho and Reutter to advance to the final by invoking a rescue measure under competition rules.

Zhou said she was affected by the crash.

"Captain Wang told me not to watch her semi to avoid nervousness but I couldn't help but watch," said Zhou. "Her fall affected me a little and I didn't skate very well in my semi.

"Before the final, I had to tell myself not to consider it as an Olympic final but as a normal race. So, I did that."

Zhou's performance will appear in the record books not only because she set an Olympic mark but also because she started to sprint when there were still three laps to go, which is considered an early and risky move in the long-distance race.

"When I started to speed up and lead with three laps to go, I thought about nothing but trying to skate all out. I didn't want anyone to pass me. I wanted to cross the finish line first," she said.

Such determination is in stark contrast to her shy personality as she does not like to talk to people she does not know and shies away from media attention.

Born in the northeastern province, Zhou was selected by a local coach for speed skating at the age of eight and soon turned to short track. She entered the national team in 2006 and won the World Junior Championships with a gutsy display of power and pride.

Her emergence has posed a serious challenge to the South Koreans, who have ruled the event for a long time.

Winning only one gold in Vancouver is not the be all and end all for this rising star.

"Actually, there is another event that I want to win at this Games - the women's 3,000m relay," Zhou said.

"I hope our whole team will perform at its best in the final."

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comments

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter