BEIJING (Reuters) – A tearful Zhu Yi was inconsolable after nerves and pressure got the better of the U.S.-born Chinese figure skater, whose last-place performance knocked China to fifth place from third in the Beijing Games’ team event on Saturday.
Skating to The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, Zhu tumbled on her first combination triple flip-triple toeloop jump, crashing into the wall, and bungled her triple loop later, scoring 47.03.
Top-placed Kamila Valieva, for ROC (Russian Olympic Committee), scored 90.18.
“I’m upset and a little embarrassed,” said the 19-year-old, who was born and raised in the United States in a Chinese immigrant family, wiping away tears after finishing her short programme stone-faced.
“I guess I felt a lot of pressure because I know everybody in China was pretty surprised with the selection for ladies’ singles and I just really wanted to show them what I was able to do but unfortunately I didn’t,” she said, her voice quivering.
Local netizens spared no mercy in a critique of her performance.
“Anyone would question how she was chosen to the team. Is it because she has a scientist father?” a user nicknamed “wFersry” wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
Zhu placed ninth in the women’s singles at the Grand Prix in Turin in November.
“I just felt very sad that I couldn’t do better and help (China) during this team event but I’m very grateful to have them, and have them cheering for me.”
A few others on Weibo were kinder.
“I hope people don’t say this (insults) to Zhu,” wrote user “Zhang Yuzhe”.
“The level of our team is still far behind Russia and the U.S. It already showed courage by coming to the stage. No one who competes for the first time can perform perfectly. It’s okay if she can adjust her condition in the next competition.”
Zhu competes in the individual event on Feb. 15.
China advanced to the finals along with ROC (Russian Olympic Committee), United States, Japan and Canada.
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Muyu Xu; Additional reporting by Julien Pretot and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)