China will send an 82-athlete team to the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games as the Chinese delegation was set up here on Wednesday.
Deputy Chef de Mission Yang Shu'an told reporters that China will be represented in 55 out of the 102 medal events, the largest number ever, showing China's growing participation in ice and snow events.
Before the successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, China had no presence in around one third of the Winter Games disciplines because it lacked an entrenched tradition in winter sports. In order to fill the vacuum, China scouted summer sports talent, not just those from northeastern provinces already known for winter and snow sports in China.
After the development in recent years, China has built national teams in all of the 102 disciplines to be contested in PyeongChang.
Geng Wenqiang, who made the move to skeleton from athletics in 2015, got one spot in men's skeleton, creating a historical breakthrough for the host of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
At the Chinese delegation set-up meeting, Shao Yijun, a bobsleigh athlete who booked a place for himself at PyeongChang together with his teammates, shared his thoughts with other athletes.
"The national bobsleigh team was formed in 2015. We knew nothing about this event at the very beginning. We couldn't even come up to the speed of a four-woman bobsleigh team. But after two years of hard work and cooperation, we began to taste the sweetness of standing on the podium," an emotional Shao said.
"We held each other close when we got the ticket to PyeongChang in the last minute, as we have given our all to try to make it to the Winter Olympics," Shao added.
In Sochi, China took home three gold, four silver and two bronze medals, placing 12th in the gold medal tally.
For 2018 Winter Olympics, Chinese officials foresee medals being potentially won in short track skating, figure skating and freestyle skiing, with China also being competitive in snowboarding and speed skating.
"Beijing and Zhangjiakou will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and under normal circumstances, the Chinese team would be expecting a big improvement in PyeongChang," said Sun Yuanfu, Deputy Director of the Winter Sports Administration Center of the General Administration of Sport of China.
Chinese short track speed skaters, who captured six gold medals at the last two Winter Olympics, are believed to be strong medal contenders in PyeongChang.
Skater Wu Dajing won the men's 500m twice in his four appearances in the 2017-2018 ISU World Cup series, and Han Tianyu will try to prove himself in the men's 1,500m event this time after claiming a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Olympic gold medalist Zhou Yang will lead the Chinese womens team to fight for gold in the women's 500m event. Former world record holder Fan Kexin is also a medal contender in the event.
In figure skating, Sui Wenjing/Han Cong, who captured the gold medal at last year's World Championships and finished runners-up at this season's World Grand Prix Finals, are considered to be the odds-on favorites to win the pairs contest.
Some observers believe that snowboarding will be a breakthrough sport for China in PyeongChang, as Liu Jiayu and Zhang Yiwei claimed titles in the World Cup series this season.
China aims to encourage a staggering 300 million people to take part in winter sports and take a big step forward in this area. These efforts were increased exponentially after Beijing's successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.