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During the Snowstorm

13.5

Voice of Youth

32

As night descended, Yin Guo, Lin Lin, and Liu Xiran joined forces to seize the gold medal in the fiercely competitive Chinese women's 9-ball team event.


This achievement marked their fifth gold medal, firmly cementing their position at the summit of the gold medal leaderboard.


The instant they secured the championship, all three of them burst with uncontainable excitement.


Their joy wasn't solely personal; this gold medal also lightened the burden on the men's snooker team event.


During their backstage dinner, Yin Guo seized the fleeting mealtime moment to sit beside Lin Yiyang and offer him a few forkfuls of food.


Lin Yiyang chuckled, gently took the fork, and murmured, "I'm not entirely helpless. I can eat."


Her fingers brushed against the back of his hand in silence.

With all the competitions wrapped up, numerous team members began scouring the internet for updates.


They read the news from various events to lift their spirits and then switched to their own coverage, basking in a sense of pride. While the Asian Games might not command as widespread attention these days, it retained its significance for athletes.


Though they were well aware of the disparaging remarks circulating online, they chose not to openly converse about it, avoiding any verbal exchanges that might inadvertently reach the ears of the three snooker players yet to compete.


Yet, frustration was brewing beneath the surface.


Ever since their withdrawal from the competition, unfavorable comments have begun to surface:


"He's only been in the game for a little over a year—how could he possibly be nursing an old injury? Sounds like excuses, just afraid of a loss."


"I totally get that; withdrawing definitely sounds better than owning up to a loss."


"Remember, he was all about the US tournaments last year and barely blinked at the ones in China. Now suddenly, he's back? Wonder what changed."


"He's got a bunch of sponsorships in the US. He's like a walking billboard over there. But here, in the land of big market potential, it's all about boosting his brand and cash flow."


"Seems like athletes have lost sight of their roots. All they see is the dollar sign."


......


Lin Yiyang tilted his head down, resting the lunchbox on his lap and taking a few quick bites.


His height made this eating position uncomfortable.


"Mind grabbing a chair for me?" He rarely showed vulnerability, but he found himself asking Yin Guo for help.


Yin Guo fetched a chair and set the lunchbox on it.


He ate with haste, cleaning off the dish in no time. He noticed Yin Guo lost in thought during this period. Assuming it was a concern for him, he playfully patted her head.


"You've got gold and silver in your bag, and you're still not thrilled?"


Yin Guo shifted gears intentionally, "After this whole competition ordeal, where should we hit up? I'll foot the bill."


He chuckled, letting her question hang.


Their gazes met and held.


"We'll figure it out post-competition," he responded with a hint of anticipation.


As he handed his lunch box and fork over to Yin Guo, he grabbed his water bottle, taking a few sips to soothe his throat.

The billiard hall awaited its final match of the day, the ultimate snooker event of the Asian Games: the men's snooker team showdown.


Besides the arena, three chairs and small tables were arranged on each side, designated for holding water bottles.


Upon stepping into the arena, Lin Yiyang promptly joined the Indian team captain to confer with the referee, deciding the sequence of appearances.


The match comprised 12 frames in total: 9 frames for singles and 3 for doubles.


In the singles matches, each player would engage in 3 frames, contending against three different opponents.


For the doubles matches, each player would partake in 2 frames.


One player needed to tackle 5 frames.


In the initial round of solo matches, Lin Yiyang took the lead. He recognized that this should be his prime performance of the evening, and he aimed to finish it swiftly. He clinched the first point in a mere 12 minutes with resolute determination.


On the other hand, Jiang Yang squared off against the rival team's formidable captain and conceded this frame.


Fresh from his gold medal victory, Meng Xiaodong found himself up against the same opponent he encountered in the semifinals. Armed with the insights to counter his rival's moves, he naturally showcased an improved performance and clinched the second point.


As this round concluded, the score stood at 2-1, favoring the Chinese team.


Lin Yiyang and Jiang Yang team up in the following doubles round. Given that they are both injured, they could not seize the upper hand and met an expected defeat.


The score was now even at 2-2, a tie.


"Quite the intense match," Jiang Yang remarked in a composed manner as he settled back into his seat, "A whole lot of effort for a stalemate."


"We've already used up the weakest combo, so no need to fret," Meng Xiaodong assured, "Things are bound to improve from this point onward."


Though Jiang Yang agreed with this optimistic outlook, he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at the term "weakest." He cast a sidelong glance at Meng Xiaodong. It seemed this guy had quite a knack for seizing opportunities for lighthearted jest and was making the most of it.


The second round of solo matches kicked off.


Jiang Yang took center stage and swiftly clinched a point.


Lin Yiyang battled valiantly until the midway point, his struggle evident, yet he ended up losing.


Meng Xiaodong, not performing at his peak, has also faced a defeat.


The score now stood at 3-4, putting the Chinese team in a precarious position.


Lin Yiyang realized that he had already participated in two fast-paced matches and would soon need to step down from the main stage... His energy had been nearly depleted in these back-to-back solo rounds.


In the second round of the doubles match, Jiang Yang and Meng Xiaodong teamed up.


With ten minutes to go before stepping onto the stage, Meng Xiaodong left his seat and went to the Chinese team's resting area, seeking a brief break from his nerves. He understood that the upcoming two doubles matches would rest heavily on his shoulders...


Meng Xiaodong stole a glance at Lin Lin before redirecting his focus.


And so, the second round of the doubles match commenced.

Meng Xiaodong and Jiang Yang joined forces for the doubles match. Meng Xiaodong found his rhythm again and initiated a flurry of aggressive moves, supported by Jiang Yang's consistent backup.


At long last, after a strenuous 37-minute bout, their teamwork earned another point for the Chinese team in this doubles match.


The scoreboard held steady at a tense 4-4 tie.


Jiang Yang turned his gaze toward Lin Yiyang, his voice carrying a hint of humor, "So, how many months of recovery are you planning after today's matches? The upcoming open tournament is definitely out of the question."


Lin Yiyang cast a glance at Jiang Yang but held his tongue.


Jiang Yang shifted his attention back to Meng Xiaodong, suggesting, "Make the most of this chance. While he's recovering from the injury, try to bring down his ranking."


Meng Xiaodong met Jiang Yang's gaze; his response was equally wordless.


......


The third round of single matches commenced.


Meng Xiaodong strode onto the stage and executed a sensational attack against his rival, clinching victory with an astounding break of 118 points.


The score now stood at 5:4, favoring China.


Meanwhile, Jiang Yang employed his trademark precise playing style, engaging in the longest match of the evening, lasting 51 minutes, to secure a win.


The final round of single matches loomed ahead...


Lin Yiyang remained on the bench throughout the match, concluding with the evening's lowest score of 0 points.


In reality, it was a stroke of fortune. Lin Yiyang was pitted against the adversary's strongest contender in the final round, and given his present condition, victory was unlikely.


Thus, his bench time might have been a strategic choice, reserving his energy for the impending critical doubles match.

"Sportsmanship in action," Lin Yiyang remarked, "I had the doubles match on my radar, so I saved my turn for later."


"Sure thing, we can't pull off any pretenses," Jiang Yang commented in a relaxed tone, "They're in their groove, and you, buddy, are riding the wave of luck."


Lin Yiyang conceded to this reality.


He had long been aware of his stroke of luck, particularly over the last few years. Maybe his name genuinely mirrored his path – grappling with setbacks before surging ahead.


With the individual matches wrapped up, the score now stood at 6-5.


It could be argued that this had been their most exasperating night yet. Despite their massive effort, they had only eked out a one-point advantage.


The final victor hinged on the outcome of the last match. Victory there would secure the entire competition, yet defeat would bring about a draw.


A tiebreaker was now in the realm of possibility...


Meng Xiaodong coolly raised a glass, quenching his thirst with a sip of water.


"Running low," Jiang Yang chimed in from the sideline, extending his own water to Meng Xiaodong.


Meng Xiaodong peered at the water within his glass, his obsession with cleanliness seizing his thoughts. For more than ten seconds, he hovered in uncertainty before finally placing the glass back down.


Jiang Yang's countenance held a mix of emotions, observing as Meng Xiaodong retrieved the cue stick and made his way to the pool table's edge. Lin Yiyang, unlike before, sported a vest throughout this match, adhering to snooker's stricter dress code in comparison to 10-ball.


While the afternoon's 10-ball game allowed for the removal of the vest, the snooker match that night demanded a more polished appearance.


With his left hand gripping the cue, Lin Yiyang walked alongside Meng Xiaodong.


"This frame has to be ours," Meng Xiaodong asserted, "You and Jiang Yang can't handle an overtime."


Lin Yiyang remained quiet, but the implication was clear to him.

Having reached this point with two injured players was already remarkable; going into overtime would be a de facto defeat.

China had the break.


As Lin Yiyang and Meng Xiaodong exchanged positions, the responsibility fell to Meng Xiaodong.


The primary offensive had to rest on Meng Xiaodong's shoulders; he had to capitalize on the chance to induce snookers and compel their adversaries to yield points.


Certainly, it demanded cooperation from Meng Xiaodong, even though they had never teamed up before and had always been rivals. Lin Yiyang's gaze shifted to Meng Xiaodong, who was already poised to take his shot, and he realized that sometimes your finest adversary can also be your greatest ally.


The red balls on the table were scattered in a somewhat chaotic manner.


On the arena's side, Yin Guo's eyes were fixed on the live broadcast.


Lin Yiyang's snooker prowess was undeniable; he took advantage of an opening, prompting his opponent to foul successively for 8 points. She recalled what Lin Yiyang had once told her during their training – that even when not at your best, you should make your rival falter.


The start wasn't particularly impressive, yet Lin Yiyang's skillful maneuver forced the opponent into errors. This allowed Meng Xiaodong to capitalize on the opening, and in tandem with Lin Yiyang, they took command of the match. When things were flowing smoothly, the wise move was to swiftly secure the victory.


Meng Xiaodong's performance wasn't subpar, but they might have clinched the win much earlier if it had been him playing.

As each of them took turns at the cue, Meng Xiaodong had to set the tempo for himself and Lin Yiyang.


Unseen by the audience, Lin Yiyang's shirt beneath his vest was damp, both on the front and back.


Primarily due to the discomfort from his injury.


Adopting Meng Xiaodong's signature focused expression, his brow consistently furrowed, Lin Yiyang persisted even as only 3 red balls remained on the table. His sheer determination kept him going. As the game advanced, and only the colored balls were left, victory appeared tantalizingly close. Through the live stream, it was clear that his temples and neck were drenched in sweat, droplets trickling down...


His fingers trembled, and only three balls remained.


The penultimate ball was Lin Yiyang's, while Jiang Yang sat poised on the chair, gripping a glass of water, and Meng Xiaodong positioned himself to Lin Yiyang's right. Both of them held their breath in unison.


The challenge was present, something that typically posed no issue for him...


With deliberate precision, Lin Yiyang pulled his cue back, his unwavering gaze locked on the tip as it made contact with the cue ball. The collision sent both the cue ball and the pink ball nestled against the cushion, rolling slowly toward the corner pocket.


During the day, he usually possessed the knack for determining whether a shot held potential or was a lost cause.


Yet, at this moment, as the shot unfolded, uncertainty clouded his judgment. He finally straightened up only when the pink ball found its mark with a satisfying thud, and the sound of applause filled the air. His smile emerged, and he leaned on the cue for support.


In the final stroke, Meng Xiaodong expertly pocketed the black ball.


In the late hours of the night, during the climactic doubles match, the Chinese team clinched the decisive victory.


As the black ball gracefully sank into the pocket, a wave of applause cascaded through the arena.


This gold medal for the men's team had been hard-earned. In contrast to the women's team's dominant performance, this particular match resembled the resilience of a spirited Meng Xiaodong guiding his teammate through the grueling game.


Amid the scene of injuries and challenges, they persevered through a full 12 frames, ultimately seizing the final gold medal of the event.


This triumph also marked the concluding gold medal for the Chinese billiards team in this competition!


......


He hadn't been exposed to the derisive remarks about their withdrawal from the event circulating beyond the arena.

Before him, there existed only the applauding crowd, the resonance of claps, and the exhilarated commentary and closing statements...


After intense effort, even Lin Yiyang's left hand had lost its responsiveness, and his legs wavered beneath him. He leisurely swiped the sweat from his brow, only to find his hand damp... as if he had just emerged from a diving competition.


He tilted his head backward, resting upon Jiang Yang's shoulder, closed his eyes, and basked in the applause with a grin. "Can we head up for the award together... I can hardly manage another step."

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