SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Four years after creating a stir back home for thanking her parents rather than the Chinese government for her gold medal in Vancouver, Zhou Yang let her golden blades do the talking at the Sochi Games on Saturday.
The 22-year-old survived a false start in the short track final and avoided a three-skater pile-up in mid-race to retain her 1,500 meters title.
Zhou slid joyously into the arms of her entourage before going on a victory lap holding aloft a large Chinese flag.
“I was nervous at the beginning, but after I finished (first) I felt so thrilled,” a gasping Zhou told reporters at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
“I’ve been through a lot during the past four years. I didn’t expect I could come back to the Olympic Games. I just wanted to do my best during training and competition.”
The skater nicknamed Baa Baa created an uproar in 2010 when she told a Chinese TV station that she hoped her win would “help my parents have a better life”.
Zhou went on to thank her coach and team mates but her failure to express her gratitude to the state-run sports system made some people question her loyalty.
Aged 18 at the time, the episode could be blamed on her naivety. When she apologized for her gaffe, it made front-page headlines.
On Saturday, however, the older and wiser Zhou will be keeping her fingers crossed that her achievements on the ice are what create a buzz back home this time.
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Robert Woodward