Teenager Su Yiming is used to fast-paced action, but he’s really taken things up a notch at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The 17-year-old Su is a former child actor, appearing in the 2014 action movie “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” when he was eight, alongside superstars including Tony Leung, before deciding to drop acting for snowboarding.
And his time at the Winter Games has read more like a movie script, with twists and turns galore.
Last week, the Chinese snowboarder narrowly missed out on a gold medal in the slopestyle event to Canada’s Max Parrot, eventually claiming silver.
However, unbeknownst to the judging panel at the time, the Canadian had grabbed his knee instead of his board during a trick – a mistake which would have resulted in a points deduction.
“We judged from the media angle that we were given,” Iztok Sumatic, Head Judge for Olympic Snowboarding, told CNN Friday, stating that “from that point of view … we saw a clean execution.”
“Afterwards, when the score was already in, the TV replay showed the trick from another angle, where it was clearly shown that Max grabbed the board for a split second, but then let it go and just grabbed his knee,” added Sumatic, who likened the moment to the infamous Diego Maradona ‘Hand of God’ goal against England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
While it is difficult to know if Su would have come out on top, Sumatic acknowledged that “the score might have been different.”
“It’s been very tough, there were a lot of hateful comments,” said Sumatic, referring to the backlash from fans.
Despite the controversy, Sumatic said that he received a call after the event from Su and his coach, saying that they were happy with the result,” and that they “totally respect” the decision made.
Despite missing out by gold in such circumstances, but Su showed no signs of being effected, bouncing back to win his own gold in the big air event on Tuesday.
“I had many dreams when I was a child,” Su said. “To be an Olympic champion was one of them, and today, I already realized my dream.
“There will be more and more challenges in the future. I will be more concentrated on my goals. All I need to do is to deliver all my efforts to achieve my goals.”
Alongside Eileen Gu, Su is one of a new breed of Chinese Olympic sensations.
Performing and excelling on home soil has catapulted both into a new stratosphere of fame, with Su’s name becoming social media’s top trending topic with 150 million views on Twitter-like social media platform Weibo after his gold medal victory.
The hashtag “Su Yiming must be able to fly” trended on Weibo with nearly 50 million views.
A keen music fan, Su was initially drawn to snowboarding from a young age because of the creative aspect of the sport.
He is also hoping to combine his former acting career and his love for snowboarding to promote the sport in China.
“Snowboarding is not just a competition for me. As a professional, I should not only ride well but should also promote the sport,” he explained.
“I want more people to feel the joy of snowboarding like I do. I feel a special joy from snowboarding that I cannot feel from anything else. I will try harder to let more people know about and love this sport.”
Su picked up snowboarding when he was just four years old, balancing it with acting until he chose to solely focus on the winter sport.
The 17-year-old is China’s youngest Winter Olympic champion and a new poster boy for the sport.
And all that pain and suffering he had to go through to get to where he is now is worth it, according to Su.
“You have to give everything to pursue your dream. Today, I am living proof of these words. It is easier said than done,” he said.
“I have suffered many injuries, but body wise I am still fine. Sometimes it is hard to overcome your mental fear, especially when you need to try new tricks. You have to overcome that fear to do what you love. I always believed I am doing the right thing and striving to realise my goals one day.
“Today proves that all those efforts pay off, and we all get paid back.”