Xu sees silver lining in readying for 2018 Games
Updated: 2014-02-16 09:20
By Lei Lei in Sochi, Russia (China Daily)
China's Xu Mengtao reacts after seeing her score in the women's freestyle skiing aerials fi nals at Sochi on Friday. Xu claimed the silver medal, behind Alla Tsuper of Belarus. Lydia Lassila of Australia won bronze. LUCAS JACKSON / REUTERS
Xu Mengtao normally likes to smile, but on Friday she was in tears after the women's freestyle skiing final - a mixture of joy for winning silver and regret for again missing gold for China.
But the 23-year-old reigning world champion said the result will help spur her to greater heights in 2018.
"I will land the jumps successfully in the future. I will work very hard to get stronger for the next Games," Xu said after China's freestylers failed to turn their dominance of the sport into Olympic gold.
On her last jump Xu just missed maintaining her balance, trailing her hand on landing and injuring it in the process. She had to settle for silver behind Alla Tsuper of Belarus.
"Before the start I was not thinking of the gold, but just to execute the jump well," Xu said with tears in her eyes. "The start went well but I made a mistake on the third twist, which caused the mistake on landing."
Xu, who finished sixth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, was considered one of China's gold medal hopefuls in the event, along with returning veteran Li Nina.
Li finished fourth after crashing on her last jump.
"When I first took part in the world championships, I got a silver but I turned it into a gold later. I will turn this Olympic silver into a gold later, too," Xu said.
Xu had been a gymnast for seven years when she turned to freestyle aerials in August 2002.
After Li left the national team following the Vancouver Games, Xu took the reins as the new leader, with difficult jumps and solid results. But the pressure affected her.
"It felt wrong at that time," Xu said. "I was so young. How could I manage to do well in all the competitions with difficult jumps? How was I supposed to set an example for the team? I always asked myself those questions. But eventually I learned to balance the bad moods with good ones."
Xu made the podium in 18 successive events, including 11 wins from 2011 to 2013. She also claimed her first world championship in Norway last year.
"Those results boosted my confidence and I learned to win under pressure," Xu told China Daily before the Sochi Games.
She still believes her best is yet to come.
"The gold medalist here was born in 1979, so if I can compete to that age I will still be jumping in 2026," Xu said. "Please trust me. Let's see what happens at the next Olympics four years from now."
Tsuper had never won a medal in four previous attempts and was ranked only 13th in the World Cup standings coming into the Olympics, but the 34-year-old from Belarus was the only skier to land perfectly in the final four shootout.
Australia's Lydia Lassila, who took gold in Vancouver in 2010, won the bronze medal.