Chinese athletes will face a tough challenge at the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, a senior sports official said here on Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Sun Yuanfu, deputy director of the Winter Sports Administration Center of the General Administration of Sport of China, stressed that good preperation is a key factor heading into the event.
"We need to be fully prepared for the challenge at Pyeongchang. If we are lucky, we can get some gold medals. If not, we may get none. We have to work for the best and be prepared for the worst," Sun said.
Sun said China has "some medal chances in short track speed skating, figure skating and freestyle skiing aerials" but warned that placing first will be difficult.
Chinese short track skaters won nine gold medals in the last four Winter Olympics, but Sun takes nothing for granted.
"It is right that we are good at short track speed skating, but we should also remember that the host of this year's Winter Olympics are also very strong in this sport. There are still some very good skaters from Europe and America, thus the competition will be very fierce in Pyeongchang and we have to fight really hard for every single medal," Sun said.
Reigning world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are considered title contenders in the pairs figure skating event, and Chinese athletes will also have title hopes in the men's and women's aerials. Sun refused to overestimate their chances of winning.
"In these events, the medals will be decided by the judges. In other words, nothing is guaranteed. First, we have to perform to our best standard. Then we will need a bit of luck," Sun added.
53 Chinese athletes have secured their tickets to Pyeongchang, while Sun expects around 15 or more to qualify in the next few weeks.
"The number of Chinese athletes competing at Pyeongchang will be more or less the same as the last Games in Sochi. The good news is that our athletes will probably have the chance to take part in some events for the first time ever, namely freestyle skiing half-pipe, snowboarding parallel giant slalom, bobsleigh and skeleton."
Sun admitted that it would be very difficult for the Chinese athletes to outperform their Asian neighbors Japan and South Korea at these Winter Games.
"South Korean athletes are competing at home, they are very strong in short track speed skating and speed skating. I think they can get four to five gold medals in short track alone. As for the Japanese delegation, I guess they will take home about four gold medals," Sun said. "As the host of the next Winter Games, we have a lot of work to do and we have to work really hard in the next four years."
China collected three golds, four silvers and two bronze at the Sochi Winter Olympics. South Korea pocketed three golds, three silvers and two bronze and Japan finished with one gold, four silvers and three bronze.