China’s ambition to get its winter sports into the athletic mainstream by 2022 will see a major test in Pyeongchang, with learning over winning setting the tone for the country’s athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
As the Olympic flame lights the cauldron at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on the night of Feb 9, the Chinese delegation and everyone involved in winter sports in China have kicked off a race to not only perform well in the eastern South Korean city but to develop athletic prowess and mass participation in winter sports by the time of the Beijing 2022 Olympics and beyond.
The Chinese delegation, which includes 82 athletes in 55 events across five sports, has been fully prepared after pre-Games acclimation to deliver their best performance in Pyeongchang while learning from the world’s best.
“We will try our hardest to win more glory in Pyeongchang, but we are still a newcomer with a relatively weak foundation in many winter sports compared with international powers,” said Gao Zhidan, deputy head of the Chinese delegation and a deputy director of the General Administration of Sport of China.
“Our goal is to learn from international elites side-by-side, but we won’t give up any chance to fight for medals. The world is going to see strong Chinese athletes physically and mentally,” he said.
Having built world-class teams on ice in short-track speedskating, figure skating and curling, China has been focusing on expanding its strength to more events, especially in snow sports, through some progressive reforms in athletic development, which are expected to be assessed in Pyeongchang.
Chinese athletes will make their Winter Olympics debuts in Pyeongchang in 10 events, such as bobsled, skeleton and ski jumping, having made solid progress in these new disciplines with the help of foreign coaches and trainers.
Even without sliding tracks at home, China’s bobsled and skeleton team has made its way to Pyeongchang to race in three events after training mainly in Europe and Canada since its establishment in 2015.
“Many fans may still not recognize our name given the short history of our sport in the country. We are trying to win the recognition in Pyeongchang and shine in Beijing,” said Geng Wenqiang, China’s lone entry in skeleton in Pyeongchang.
Although setting no official medal goals, the Chinese delegation expects to win gold in the short-track and figure skating rinks, as well as the freestyle ski jump.
World champion figure skating pair Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, men’s skater Wu Dajiang in the 500m race, and freestyle aerials world champion Xu Mengtao are among the brightest gold medal hopes of China’s young delegation.