Feature: Canadian coach pins Olympic glory on Chinese veteran halfpipe snowboarder

(Xinhua) 13:06, February 19, 2024

HOHHOT, China, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Having competed for 15 years on the World Cup circuits and two Olympics, Canadian halfpipe snowboarder Derek Livingston had two third-place finishes at World Cups, but never came close to an Olympic medal.

Now, as the freshman coach for Chinese snowboarder Liu Jiayu, 33-year-old Livingston is reviving his hope of reaching the Olympics podium two years later.

Four-time Olympian Liu, 32, took a silver at PyeongChang 2018 on snowboard halfpipe, creating the best result ever for Chinese female snowboarders so far. She returned from a one-year break last September after connecting with Livingston in Whistler.

Liu captured the halfpipe silver on Friday at the China's 14th Winter National Games.

"Back in the summer, Jiayu was living in Whistler. That's where I live and we have mutual friends who connected us together. I just started taking some coaching courses and had just retired from competitive snowboarding. And Jiayu was looking for a new coach because she's starting to get back into competing after taking a year off after the [Beijing 2022] Olympics," Livingston recalled his first contact with Liu.

Livingston gave a positive appraisal of his first trainee and said he expected better of Liu in the future. "Working with Jiayu has been great. She's a very hard-working athlete and she's one of the best female snowboarders out there."

"She's really dedicated to pushing hard and working through adversity and wanting to be one of the best. We've had a really good season, and that is especially after her taking such a long break from competing, coming back strong, getting a second place at Secret Garden [FIS snowboard halfpipe World Cup in Chongli on December], and then continuing that here with another second place," he added.

Looking forward to the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics in 2026, Livingston said he hopes to help Liu make consistent progress and reach the podium again. Producing an Olympic medalist is also the best reward for the newly-appointed coach.

"She had a great result back in PyeongChang 2018, and she's still up there as one of the best female snowboarders. So all she has to do is to keep doing what she's doing, keep training. We are learning some new tricks, and we're trying to build that into her run and with these new tricks, she will be a contender for a medal at the next competition, at the next Olympics.

"I believe Jiayu has the potential to win another medal for China at the next Olympics if she wants to keep going. The biggest thing is an athlete winning a medal there," he added.

Livingston added that he believes himself capable of making Liu a better athlete, especially on her mental focus, consistency and bigger tricks. "One thing that we discussed is that I just recently finished my competitive career and I have experience with doing these bigger tricks and that's where she wants a little bit, guidance and help. And that's where and what I can bring to the table along with knowing how to be in a competitive situation and knowing how to deal with the stresses and the highs and lows of competing."

The Canadian added that he sees his experience of competing as something that can be brought to the table and believes they can improve many things better working together.

"Jiayu is a very experienced competitor herself, so I think we can work together well to improve on her mental focus, on her consistency inside the competition scene. Bringing along my experience with the bigger, more difficult tricks, and knowing what they feel like, what to look out for, I could believe I can help her achieve those goals of learning those new double corks. And with those tricks, I think she definitely has potential to win a gold medal," he said.

"Me as a coach, that's obviously a goal. It's a dream to be able to coach an athlete to win a gold medal. Obviously I'm just starting out, but we'll see where the world takes us in the future."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Xian Jiangnan)


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