Fri, Aug 25, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Taipei Universiade: Lee Chih-kai spins to victory

STIR-FRYING NOODLES:In the artistic gymnast’s winning signature technique, the ‘Thomas flair,’ he balances his torso between his arms and windmills his legs in circles

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Gymnast Lee Chih-kai, right, poses with Taipei Universiade Organizing Committee chief executive Su Li-chung at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Taiwanese artistic gymnast Lee Chih-kai (李智凱) yesterday said that winning the pummel horse gold medal in the Taipei Summer Universiade was only the beginning, as his sights are set on the gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Lee on Wednesday consolidated his win with a score of 15.3 points and his crowd-pleasing “Thomas flair” technique.

Lee and his coach, Lin Yu-hsin (林育信), were asked to speak about his extraordinary performance at a news conference at the Universiade media center yesterday morning.

“This was only the beginning and I need to continue working hard. I thank everybody and my girlfriend for all their support along the way,” Lee said. “I hope what I accomplished on Wednesday lets people learn more about gymnastics.”

Lee said his coach’s encouragement helped him recover from a low point following his lackluster performance in the Rio Olympics last year.

“I fractured my leg one month before the games. Even though I did not get the result that I wanted, my coach told me to never give up because I still have the Universiade this year, the Asian Games next year and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020,” Lee said.

Lee said that overcoming stress and nerves has been part of his training, and his participation in Rio and his home-court advantage helped him relax on Wednesday.

“Many people came and rooted for us, which brought a lot of positive energy. This was why I thought I could deliver such a good performance,” Lee said.

What Lee has accomplished was the result of 15 years of hard work, Lin said, speaking as Lee’s coach since kindergarten.

He said he trained Lee how to do the Thomas flair, an acrobatic move in which an athlete balances their torso between their arms while swinging their legs in circles.

“The Thomas flair was something I did to score chicks when I was a gymnast, because all gymnasts from Yilan have to learn it. When we were little, we thought that the technique could be used on the pummel horse in 15 years,” Lin said.

The coaches picked Lee to train in the technique because he has long hands and legs, Lin said, adding that they started training him to do the move on the pummel horse when he was in junior-high school.

“In Taiwanese, we say that athletes doing the Thomas flair are ‘stir-frying rice noodles.’ I hope we can continue stir-frying noodles until 2020,” Lin said.

As Lee was the only one of the seven boys in the documentary Jump Boy! (翻滾吧! 男孩) to compete in the Olympics, Lin said he hopes that more boys like Lee can compete in Tokyo and show the world how they do the Thomas flair.

Lin said that he jumped up and shouted before everybody else did when Lee stuck the landing

“I have seen him perform the move that we designed more than 10,000 times. I knew when he would finish and I knew he would land perfectly, because I have seen him do every move since he was young. We can only see this happen after years of training and hard work,” he said.

In the Asian Games, Lin said that he would redesign the move so that elements of the Thomas flair would account for 90 percent of his performance.

The Federation of International Gymnastics has used Lee’s performance as an example to teach referees that they must not deduct points when they see the Thomas flair, as it is a flawless move from the beginning to the end, Lin said.

Lin’s brother, Lin Yu-hsien (林育賢), directed Jump Boy! and the dramatic film Jump Ashin! (翻滾吧! 阿信).

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