THANK YOU: Wang Meng kowtows to her coach Li Yan (in yellow gear) soon after defending her title in the women's 500-meter on February 17 in Vancouver, Canada (YANG LEI)
Fifteen meters away from the finish line.
The Chinese men's short-track speed skating team had never been so close to a silver medal as they were in the 5,000-meter relay final at the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Unfortunately, on the last curve Han Jialiang suddenly lost his balance, watching his counterparts from South Korea and the United States overtake him and then crossing the finish line behind a Canadian skater.
"The surface was terrible after more than 40 laps of the relay. My fall was really a pity," said Han.
Fourth place was the best result the Chinese men's team had in all four speed skating events in Vancouver.
"The process was perfect—their morale was high. But the result was a bit of a pity, which also showed the cruelness of the Winter Olympics," Li Yan, who coaches the Chinese national short-track speed skating team, said after the match. "How wonderful it would have been if the men had won a medal!"
Just an hour before the men's relay final, the last short-track speed skating event, kicked off in the evening of February 26, world No. 1 Wang Meng, 25, claimed the gold medal in the women's 1,000-meter final, becoming China's first triple gold medalist at one Winter Olympic Games. She had previously won the 500-meter and 3,000-meter relays.
Zhou Yang, 19, Wang's teammate in the 3,000-meter relay, took the women's 1,500-meter gold medal on February 20, smashing South Koreans' dominance over the event in two previous Olympics.
"I'd like to thank my coach Li Yan, who taught me how to slide faster," Wang said emotionally. "She is the woman who has changed the history of China's short-track speed skating."
Born in 1968 in Mudanjiang City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, where ice and snow sports are popular because winter is so long, Li joined the short-track speed skating national team in 1987.
In 1988, she won a gold medal in the women's 1,000-meter and two bronze medals in the 500- and 1,500-meter at the 15th Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada, where short-track speed skating was only a demonstration sport.
Li added another silver in women's 500-meter short-track speed skating at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, winning the country's first Olympic medal in short-track speed skating.
After retiring from the national team, Li majored in international finance at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in 1994.
She coached the Slovakian team in an exchange program in 2001 and served as the U.S. national short-track coach starting in 2003.
One of her career highlights was Apolo Ohno's victory over South Korean rival Ahn Hyun-Soo at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, winning the country's first men's 500-meter short-track speed skating gold medal.
Li's coaching performance in Turin—one gold and two bronze medals—attracted attention from China, which had only one gold in the women's 500-meter and was looking forward to more in upcoming international events, particularly the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Li returned to China to coach the Chinese national team in May 2006 at the invitation of the State General Administration of Sport.