China sends 236-strong delegation to Asian Winter Games

Updated 2017-02-14 11:33:36 Xinhua

China has named a 236-strong delegation for the 8th Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, which will run from Feb. 19-26.

China will compete in all events at the Games, which will attract some 2,300 athletes from 31 countries and regions.

Chinese short track speed skaters, who captured six gold medals at the last two Winter Olympics, are believed to be strong medal contenders in Japan.

Skater Han Tianyu won the men's 1,500m at the 2016 World Championships, and Wu Dajing claimed the men's 500m title at the 2016 World Cup in Shanghai. World champion Fan Kexin will try to prove herself in the women's 500m this time after failing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Li Yan, head coach of the shork track team, told Xinhua that China faces a challenge from old rival South Korea and an improving Japan and Kazakhstan. South Korea took two short track golds in Sochi.

In figure skating, China will send two pairs to strive for gold: Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao and Peng Cheng/Jin Yang. The 20-year-old rising star Jin Boyang is also expected to touch a men's singles medal.

33-year-old veteran Zhang Hao, the silver medalist at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, will go for his first Asian Winter Games together with his 21-year-old new partner Yu Xiaoyu.

Zhao Hongbo, the champion at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and now the national team coach for paired figure skating, told Xinhua that the two new couples are improving, and ready for the Games.

"They're practicing all the time, not only for Sapporo, but also for Pyeongchang and Beijing," said Zhao. "We are using this time as a big rehearsal before next year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and we're looking forward to our best performance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics."

Zhang Hong, China's first-ever Olympic gold medalist in speed skating, will aim to shine at Obihiro, around 200km away from Sapporo, with her teammate Yu Jing.

China will also pursue medals in snowboarding halfpipe, cross-country skiing and curling. Freestyle skiing aerials, one of the Chinese top events, is excluded and all the four freestyle categories are moguls.

Zhang Yiwei, Cai Xuetong and Liu Jiayu are believed to be competitive in snowboarding halfpipe.

Mikko Olavi Virtanen, head coach of China's cross-country skiing team, told Xinhua that his team aims to grab three medals at Sapporo.

According to Gao Zhidan, head of the delegation, China will take the Asian Winter Games as an opportunity to learn from neighbors and to make progress in many events where China has traditionally struggled, skiing in particular. China has only won one skiing gold in Winter Olympic history.

China has recently launched new national team programs in snow sports including luge, bobsled, skeleton, ski jumping and Nordic combined, and has hired many foreign coaches. Furthermore, many teams are training abroad.

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