China eyeing better results at Vancouver Games

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Figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo
Chinese Figure skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo aim for a breakthrough at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

After topping the gold medal table at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, China is now aiming for a major breakthrough at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"We hope our athletes can achieve better results than at the last Winter Olympics in Turin," Zhao Yinggang, China's winter sports chief, said yesterday at a ceremony to announce the country's team to the Vancouver Games.

At Turin, in 2006, the Chinese side won two gold, four silver and five bronze medals.

In an attempt to surpass that achievement, China will send its largest ever delegation to Vancouver for the Feb 12-28 Games.

At yesterday's event, China announced a 182-member delegation - 91 athletes and 91 officials - for the 21st Winter Olympiad.

Led by defending Winter Olympic champions women's short track speed skater Wang Meng and men's freestyle aerial skier Han Xiaopeng, the team will compete in 49 of 86 disciplines in 15 sports.

At the Turin Games, China had a delegation of 151 members, of which 76 were athletes. They were entered in nine of 17 sports in the Italian city.

The team has an average age of 24.4 years and almost 70 percent of the delegation will make their Winter Olympic debuts in Canada.

The 25-year-old Wang, who claimed the women's 500m gold at Turin 2006, is the team's biggest gold medal hope.

She is the reigning world champion in the women's 500m, 1,000m and all-around events.

"I have been given no specific task but I am very determined to beat the (arch-rival) South Koreans," Wang said.

The comeback figure skating pair of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, which will compete in their fourth Winter Olympics, is chasing the dream of claiming China's first Olympic gold medal in the event.

"The only reason for our coming back is to win the Olympic gold," said 37-year-old Zhao, who is the oldest athlete on the China team. "It will be our last Winter Olympics, so we will try our best."

In the team events, China's men's and women's curling sides will appear at the Winter Games for the first time while the women's ice hockey team has made a successful comeback after missing Turin.

"The participation in those team events is of great significance for the whole delegation," Zhao said.

While the country is a Summer Games powerhouse, it didn't win a Winter Olympics title until the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Yang Yang won two short track speed skating titles to end China's Winter Olympics gold drought eight years ago.

"We started taking part in winter sports much later and we faced great obstacles ... generally speaking, we are below the level of the summer sports," Zhao said.

"We are working hard on narrowing the gap between China's winter and summer sports."

With 86 gold medals up for grabs in 15 sports, the Vancouver Games will attract about 5,500 athletes from 85 countries and regions.

It will be the largest Games in Winter Olympics' history.

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