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Malta snowboarder wins over fans after pulling bao bun from pocket after Olympic run

Although she won't be taking home a medal, the snowboarder has captivated the internet with her personality and remarkable story about making it to the Olympics.

BEIJING, China — San Francisco-native Jenise Spiteri may not go down in snowboarding history among the ranks of athletes like Shaun White and Chloe Kim, but the 29-year-old has certainly become an internet star at this year's Winter Olympics.

As the sole athlete representing the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, Spiteri failed to qualify for the halfpipe finals, but the rainbow-haired snowboarder quickly won the hearts of spectators.

While waiting for her score to be tallied up, Spiteri snacked on a half-eaten bao bun she had stuffed in her pocket after having too many butterflies to finish her breakfast that morning. 

But it is perhaps Spiteri's backstory that has resonated profoundly with a global audience. In fact, unlike many athletes who start training from a young age, Spiteri only became serious about becoming a professional snowboarder during her senior year of high school, according to the New York Times.

In 2012, Spiteri, then a student at Sierra Nevada College, posted a Facebook status that read, “Wanted: someone to teach me how to ride pipe tomorrow. anyone available??”

Although Spiteri has received some support from the Olympic Solidarity Training Program, her career has largely been self-funded: from starting a Go Fund Me page, to running a YouTube Channel, to starring as an extra on HBO's hit series "Euphoria." 

Most notably, Spiteri has also elected to live out of a van for the last year two years in order to off-set rent while training in California and Washington, documenting her living experiences and DIY vehicle upgrades on her YouTube Channel.  

According to the Times, Spiteri knew her chances of qualifying for Team USA were limited because of her late-start to competitive snowboarding, but she decided to pursue her Olympic dreams by registering to represent Malta, an homage to her late-grandfather who emigrated from the island country after World War II. 

She even joked about her hopes of representing Malta at the Olympics during a previous "Let's Make a Deal" appearance. 

"Yes, I'm Maltese...not like the dog, the human," she joked with host Wayne Brady

Spiteri previously tried qualifying for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, but failed to do so after tearing her Achilles' tendon and meniscus during a World Cup event in New Zealand.

And despite her second-to-last place finish in halfpipe qualifying, fans across the globe continue to cheer her on. 

"Don't downplay yourself, you've already accomplished more than most of us could even imagine doing in a lifetime!" wrote one Twitter user. "You have so much to be proud of! Sending nothing but positivity your way! Thank you for representing Malta!"

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