Chinese speed skaters will medal at Vancouver Olympics, Canadian team coach says

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A Canadian speed skating team coach predicted Friday in Vancouver that Chinese skaters will win medals "for some distances" in next month's Winter Olympic Games.

Wang Xiuli, former Chinese national team member and current Canadian national speed skating team coach, told Xinhua that she was expecting "surprises" from the Chinese national team's Dutch coach.

Now living in Calgary, Alberta, where she is one of six coaches on the Canadian national speed skating team, Wang, winner of the 1,500 meters at the 1990 World Championships, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua the shorter distances would have more benefits for the China team to medal in both the short track and long track events.

Now coaching her third Olympics for Canada, the Harbin native, a competitor at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, said she liked the chances of Wang Meng, gold medalist in the 500 meters in the 2006 Turin Games and the current world champion, and Wang Beixing, winner of the 2009 World Sprint Speed Skating Championships.

She concedes, however, that Japan and South Korea would also field strong teams.

"With the Games you never know," said Wang who coached four Canadian skaters to medals, including 5,000-meter winner Clara Hughes, in the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. "There never is a guarantee you are going to win a medal, but the people who are in the top five have a chance to win a medal for sure."

"Wang (Meng) is going to maintain her performance, from what I've seen, and Wang Beixing has been training in Calgary with her Canadian coach (Kevin Crockett) and she's prepared," she said. "The (Chinese) women have a greater chance than the men's side (for medals), but the men side still has a chance for sure."

Wang Xiuli added she liked the job Chinese national team coach Sitje van der Lende had been doing with her young charges. The Netherlands native, a competitor at the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics, was appointed in May 2008 and immediately made technical changes, especially in improving the team members' speed in the corners.

"She's doing a great job since taking over and hopefully there are some surprises from her. She's been fully committed to coaching the China team for the last two seasons and instilled more discipline," Wang said. "China's team has changed a lot over the year since my time with (the presence of) many international coaches."

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