Li is bowing out on her own terms
Updated: 2014-02-16 09:19
By Lei Lei in Sochi, Russia (China Daily)
China's Li Nina is helped after crashing on her last jump during the freestyle skiing aerials final on Friday in Sochi. ANDY WONG / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Li Nina could only stand up with the aid of a team doctor after crashing on her last jump in the freestyle skiing aerials at Sochi on Friday.
But China's 'Princess on Snow' still managed to flash her signature smile and raise her arm to salute the crowd.
The 31-year-old veteran placed a disappointing fourth in her last Winter Olympics, but was still pleased with her effort.
"I'm very satisfied with my first two jumps and I fulfilled my task, which was to reach the superfinal," Li said. "I was the only double-twist jumper, as the other three were all triple-twisters ... but I'm satisfied with my performance."
Li crashed badly on an attempted back-double full-double full, and had to be helped from the finish area by a team doctor. Because her jump had the lowest degree of difficulty in the superfinal, she missed the podium with the score of 46.02.
Alla Tsuper of Belarus won the gold, followed by China's reigning world champion Xu Mengtao and Lydia Lassila of Australia.
"I stood up and smiled because I knew everybody was worried about me, so I gave them a salute," Li said. "I wanted to display my best to all."
No matter what happened on Friday, the four-time Olympian decided before the Games that Sochi would be her final Olympics.
"I'm satisfied with all my performances at the four Olympics," said Li, who won silver at Turin in 2006 and at Vancouver in 2010. "I think my Olympic experiences have been as valuable as a gold medal."
After a three-year hiatus, Li claimed a bronze medal at the World Cup series in Changchun in January 2013. But shortly after the competition she injured her right knee and required eight months of rehabilitation.
"At that time I thought I was done; I didn't know how I could come back," Li recalled. "I was out for a long time and I didn't think I could jump again.
"But my teammates, doctors and coaches all told me it would not be a problem. Another girl had the same injury and they treated her and got her back, so it was possible."
After five stops on the World Cup circuit this season, Li was No 1 in the overall rankings.
"Li's comeback was very important to the whole team as she helped us to be calm and perform better," said silver medalist Xu. "She made our team more united."
Their coach agreed.
"It was very difficult for Li to regain her form in such a short time and she is the real leader of the team," head coach Ji Dong told China Daily.
Li said she is considering several options for the future.
"I think I still want to do more for China's aerieals," she said, before adding with a laugh: "Other athletes at my age are married and have babies, so I also want to find my Mr Right soon."