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Youngest Chinese Asiad champ shines!

BEIJING (ANN/CHINA DAILY) – Cui Chenxi, 13, made history by becoming the youngest Asian Games (Asiad) gold medallist in China’s sporting annals on Wednesday.

The 13-year-old dynamo, hailing from Jinan in East China’s Shandong province, claimed victory in the women’s street skateboarding event held at the Qiantang Roller Sports Centre in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

The street competition challenged skaters to execute audacious tricks on a demanding course replete with rails and gaps.

Cui’s standout moment came when she fearlessly landed a move off the notoriously daunting high rail – a feat that most of her competitors shied away from.

The teenager, who is the Chinese national team’s youngest athlete, clinched gold by scoring 242.62 points. Compatriot Zeng Wenhui, 18, claimed silver with 236.61 points, and Japanese skateboarder Ito Miyu, 16, took home the bronze with 221.59 points.

Until Wednesday, the title of China’s youngest Asian Games gold medalist belonged to 15-year-old skateboarder Chen Ye, who won the men’s park event on Monday.

The youngest participant at the Games is Mazel Paris Alegado, a nine-year-old Filipino skateboarder who ranked ninth in the women’s park final on Monday.

Cui said this victory means a lot to her. “I always wanted to win gold. This competition is different from other competitions, so I particularly wanted to win this one.”

Asked if she was nervous before the competition, she shook her head and said: “My dad told me to stay relaxed, enjoy the competition and showcase my skills. As long as I give it my all, I have no regrets.”

Skateboarding, which is rooted in street culture and closely tied to lifestyles and attitudes of young people, is a sport that emphasises freedom and personal techniques.

Cui only took up skateboarding in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow her to practice rollerblading, which she began as a 3-year-old. Her father, a skateboarding enthusiast, suggested that she try skateboarding at home instead.

“I remember the day I stepped onto the board for the first time. It felt incredibly smooth. It was love at first sight,” Cui said.

Within a year, she was reaching podiums at professional-level events. In 2022, she ranked third in the women’s street event at the Shandong provincial games. She soon joined the provincial skateboarding team and underwent a more comprehensive and structured training program.

Earlier this year, Cui secured the 30th spot in the women’s street event at the World Street Skateboarding Championships held in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, and 17th at the 2023 Street Pro Tour’s stop in Rome, Italy.

In skateboarding, injuries are unavoidable, but when discussing the pain and the setbacks, Cui displayed a level of resilience beyond her age. “When I started skateboarding, I thought it was great fun. Later, I realised people sustain a lot of injuries while skateboarding. But that is where the spirit of skateboarding lies,” she said.

Most of the time, getting injured is just part of the process, and she simply pushes through it and perseveres, she added.

Apart from her daily training regimen, Cui’s life also revolves around skateboarding.

Speaking about her hobbies, she mentioned finger skateboarding, which involves using one’s fingers to manipulate miniature skateboards.

She loves pulling off tricks and manoeuvres on these tiny skateboards designed to mimic the movements of real ones. “Sometimes, I even play skateboarding-related games on my phone,” she said.

As the youngest member of the Chinese delegation, Cui is adored by her fellow athletes, and has received a lot of pins as gifts.

It’s worth mentioning that the character Chen in the name of one of the Games’ robot mascots, Chenchen, is the same as the one in her name. This is why she is fond of the mascot and has collected many pins featuring him.

Cui has formed a close bond with Zeng, the silver medallist, who also represented China in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Cui is “the future of Team China”, according to Zeng. “I think she is quite excellent. We will stand together in moving forward in the future,” she said.

China’s Cui Chenxi competes in the final of the women’s street skateboarding event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on September 27, 2023. PHOTO: AFP