China sends largest ever delegation to Vancuver Olympics

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Olympic champion Wang Meng will lead the field for China as the country send a largest ever team to next month's Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, said the Chinese Olympic Committee in Beijing on Thursday.

China announced a 182-member delegation, including 91 athletes and 91 officials, for the 21st Games, slated for February 12-28. Ten sports with 49 events, out of 86 events in 15 sports in total, will feature competitors from the nation.

The previous record was set for Turin Winter Olympics four years ago when China fielded a delegation of 151 members, of which 76 were athletes, who entered nine of the 17 sports in the Italian city.

"It is not only China's largest ever team to a winter Olympics since we made debut in the games in 1980, but also a team with the most berths," Xiao Tian, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sport, told a small group of reporters at an exclusive ceremony for the founding of the Chinese delegation.

Defending champions Wang Meng and Han Xiaopeng are among the 30 men and 61 women athletes heading for Vancouver, with more than a half of the athletes are making their winter Olympic debuts.

The 25-year-old Wang, who claimed the women's 500m gold medal in Turin 2006, again come out the hottest favorite for women's short track speed skating events, while the men's aerials champion Han, 27, is not yet out of flavor despite one-year absence from international events.

"There's no specific task having been handed over to me, but I'm very determined to beat the South Koreans," said Wang, also a reigning world champion in women's 500m, 1000m and all-around, when asked about the Chinese short track team's target in Vancouver.

Figure skating pairs event is another title hopeful of China as former world champions and twice Olympic bronze medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo came back from retirement and won two ISF Grand Prix events before lifting trophy in the Finales to get themselves ready for their fourth Olympic campaign.

Li Nina, a favorite four years ago in Turin, is still leading the women's freestyle aerials rankings, and Wang Beixing pins China's medal hopes in women's speed skating.

The Chinese men's and women's curling teams have booked their tickets to the Winter Games for the first time in history, and China's hockey girls made a successful comeback after having missed the Turin Games.

Uneven with the nation's powerhouse image in summer games after topping the gold medal table in Beijing 2008, China, which didnot win a winter Olympic title until the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, is just underway in winter sports.

Yang Yang took two short track speed skating titles to end China's winter Olympic gold draught eight years ago. In the previous Winter Olympic Games in Turin, China brought home two gold, four silver and five bronze medals.

"We hope that our athletes could make breakthrough in Vancouver and surpass the previous games' result," said Zhao Yinggang, chief director of China's winter sports administrative center and secretary general of the Chinese delegation for Vancouver Olympics.

The newly established Chinese team averages 24.4 years old with the 37-year-old figure skater Zhao Hongbo the oldest and hockey player Zhang Mengying the youngest, who just enjoyed her 16-year-old birthday.

Around 5,500 athletes from 85 countries and regions are expected to compete at Vancouver with a total of 86 gold medals are up for grab.

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