By sportswriters Su Bin, Liu Ning
PYEONGCHANG, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Seeing 85.50 points on the screen, Liu Jiayu smiled excitedly.
That score led to her to the silver medal in women's halfpipe on Tuesday in PyeongChang; China's first Olympic medal in snowboarding.
"I just wanted to be myself today, and I finally I made it. Good weather, good venue, so many people supporting me, that's huge motivation for me," she said.
Back in 2010, 17-year-old Liu Jiayu, was the reigning world champion but missed out on a medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
That disappointment was followed by two surgeries on her left shoulder.
"People can always position themselves appropriately in low ebbs. I found that I loved this sport more than ever, probably even more after my injuries," she recalled. "I'd go out to enjoy the training and competition, [I' d do it] just for the joy and reminding people that girls can be quite cool on snowboards."
Four years later in Sochi, the highly-rated Liu fell out of contention and finished ninth. Another disappointment that was followed by another surgery.
"So many injuries. Persistence derives from love of the sport. I feel quite confident about myself. Snowboarding is just about happiness and joy," she said.
In PyeongChang, Liu stepped up at an Olympic venue for the third time, more for the joy of competing than for the Olympic medals.
Perhaps that's why she smiled all the way in Tuesday's final.
Following a stable first-run performance, Liu could expect a title contest with American teenage sensation Chloe Kim, who put up 93.75 points.
A confident Liu bettered her previous score in the second run with 89.75, cutting Kim's advantage to four points.
Then Liu challenged for a difficult 1080 move in the final run, but unfortunately failed to convert it.
A bit regretfully, Liu clapped her hands, before hugging Arielle Gold who had already secured a bronze.
"An Olympic medal is my target, but promoting this sport in China is more important. I can make it. A medal here is not just for me, but for the event in China," Liu said.
As for the next edition of the Winter Olympics in 2022, Liu pointed out that she wants to snowboard as long as she can. She understands the difficulties at the highest level of the sport, and wants to "rethink" entering again in 2022. She smiles again though, and you can be sure, this is not the last time we will see her on the slopes.