“I didn’t choose this sport,” explains Chinese halfpipe sensation Yiwei Zhang. “This sport chose me.”
Zhang, 21, was just 11 years old when officials from the Chinese Ski Association pulled him out of gymnastics class at his school in his hometown of Gaizhou, Liaoning.
“They wanted to build a snowboarding team for halfpipe and they just needed athletes,” says Zhang. “I didn’t know anything about this sport and had never tried it, but they said it didn’t matter. I was given a choice to take more school time or to become a professional athlete. I was the kind of boy who wanted to try new things and see the world. I didn’t think I could make the gymnastics team, so I figured I’d try snowboarding.”
Despite that unlikely beginning, Zhang says he was hooked from the very first time he got on snow.