The Chinese 2006 Winter Olympics delegation on February 9 held a national flag-raising ceremony in the Olympic village in Turin, Italy, where 76 Chinese athletes of China will vie for honors in 47 events.
Arriving in Turin on February 8, the chief of the delegation, Liu Peng, along with short track and speed skating athletes attended Thursday morning's ceremony.
Yang Yang (A), China's first-ever Winter Olympic gold medallist who won the 500m and 1,500m short track event in Salt Lake City in 2002, has been selected to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
"Yang will be China's first woman flag bearer, whether for the summer or winter Olympics," according to Wang Yitao, secretary general of the Chinese delegation.
30-year-old Yang was in semi-retirement when she decided to make a comeback, taking the gold in the 500m at the 2005 world championships.
"I'm 100 percent confident," she said. "I'm looking forward to all the experience that the Olympics will give me."
Yang faces stiff competition in Turin, however, with compatriot Wang Meng having the benefit of form and age. She is just 20 and won four medals at the 2005 world championships.
Despite Yang's optimism, not all is well in the China camp. Pairs figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, bronze medallists in Salt Lake City, and gold winners at the 2002 and 2003 world championships, have serious injury worries on their minds. Zhao has only just recovered from a severe injury to his Achilles tendon last August.
In speed skating, 32-year-old Wang Manli will make a bid for a medal in the women's 500m following her 2004 world championship crown.
Another big hope for China is Li Jiajun, a silver medallist at Salt Lake City in the men's 1,500m short track speed skating.
This Games' team for the first time comprises more snow than ice event athletes.
China's first Olympic medal on snow was won by Xu Nannan at 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, and the women's freestyle aerials team has big hopes to repeat that this year.
"Our team is strong as a whole and no matter who misses the Games, we are confident of good results at Turin," said Li Nina, China's first freestyle skiing aerials world champion.
Besides the freestyle aerials event, China also has eyes on better results for the biathlon.
With Chinese athletes reaching the top three positions at last season's world cup series and 2005 Biathlon World Championships, China has renewed confidence in this event.
"The best result that China achieved in this event is fifth and our women's team is strong at present," Wang Yitao said. "We hope for better results than at the last Games."
At the last Games four years ago, China finished 13th in the medal table with two gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
(Xinhua News Agency, CRI, China Daily February 10, 2006)