Olympic snowboard king Su Yiming showcases a more confident China
BEIJING: Sporting shoulder-length hair, rings and baggy trousers, teenage snowboarding sensation Su Yiming looked every inch the cool, confident ambassador of China’s new youth as he swept to home Olympic gold.
The former child actor is one of the breakout stars of the Beijing Olympics, having won silver and then on Tuesday (Feb 15) gold, catapulting the 17-year-old to stardom and amassing him an avid social media fanbase at home.
Su heralds the rise of a new generation of young, patriotic Chinese athletes with the kind of aura of cool that has eluded the young Olympians who, unlike Su, are products of China’s gruelling Soviet-style sports academies.
China’s first men’s Olympic medallist in snowboarding has earned a legion of Chinese fans through his down-to-earth demeanour, effortless style and love of music – as well as becoming the new face of a sport that champions individualism and daredevil courage.
“Snowboarders have a particular style to them which Su fits perfectly. It’s something that would definitely resonate with younger generations in China and elsewhere,” said China-based sports analyst Mark Dreyer, author of Sporting Superpower: An Insider’s View on China’s Quest to Be the Best.
After a scintillating run in the slopestyle last week, where he won silver, Su clasped his hands to his mouth and repeatedly screamed a profanity in English live on air.
“My worry is that at some point they’re going to ask him to conform and basically be a snowboarder without (a personality),” added Dreyer.
“He could legitimately become a great soft-power ambassador for China – but not necessarily the soft-power ambassador that China wants.”
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