Chinese ice hockey goalie Zhou Jiaying (right) celebrates after defeating Japan at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on February 6 (XINHUA)
When Zhou Jiaying, wearing dragon-emblazoned kneepads and a helmet adorned with a Great Wall pattern, calmly saved the last penalty shot from Japan on February 6, her teammates rushed to embrace their hero.
The Chinese women's ice hockey team rewrote a 13-year-long record of losing out against Japan.
From the match beating Denmark 3:1 to the one defeating Japan 2:1 at the Beijing 2022 Games, the Canadian-born goalie had all eyes on her, not in the least because of her sports equipment decorated with Chinese elements and her obvious love for Chinese culture.
Zhou, 26, admitted she felt nervous in the leadup to the penalty shootout. "But I believed we could win, and then I just kept thinking about the Japanese player moves I'd been studying," she said. Team Japan ranks sixth in the world, whereas China is only in 20th place.
Before the match, Zhou spent a lot of time watching Team Japan footage and carefully analyzing the positioning and hitting habits of Japanese players. "This way," Zhou said, "I get to know their approach."
When asked whether she did this "because you were once a 'grade-A student'," Zhou laughed and replied, "That may have something to do with it."
Before becoming a professional ice hockey player, Zhou worked with a Wall Street investment bank. She is also a graduate of the prestigious Princeton University in the U.S.
During her days at Princeton, Zhou played in 111 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) games, with an average save rate of 0.92 per game. She won the NCAA Ivy League championship in 2016 with the Princeton Tigers.
When Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays from China invited her to join them in 2018, Zhou left her Wall Street job. The following four years, she played for the Shenzhen club, winning the Zhenskaya Hockey League--consists of Russian and Chinese teams--championship in 2020.
At the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, Zhou put on the Team China jersey. "I think it's all worth it," said Zhou when asked about her choice to switch from investment banking to playing for Team China. "I'd always hoped to become a professional ice hockey player, and the four years in the professional league has made my dream come true. Today, I feel even more happy and proud to have the chance to come out for Team China at the Olympic Winter Games."
This story is based on a Chinese report by The Paper
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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