China vows to end S. Korean dominance on short track rink

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Under the guidance of star coach Li Yan, Chinese short track skaters spearheaded by Olympic champion Wang Meng will strive to end South Korea's domination in the sport at the upcoming Vancouver Winter Games.

Four years ago, an almighty South Korean team led by Ahn Hyun-soo and Jin Sun-yu swept six of eight short track gold medals on offer at the Turin Games, leaving the men's 500m and women's 500m to Apolo Anton Ohno of the United States and Wang Meng respectively. This time, the 25-year-old Wang vowed to fight back.

"Our target is to beat the South Korean team," said the double world record holder of the women's 500m and 1,000m events.

In the lead-up season to the Vancouver Games, Wang not only topped the World Cup women's overall standings, but also led her teammates to dominate the 3,000m relay.

"I am very confident," she said. "I am much stronger than four years ago, physically and mentally."

The existence of Li Yan, who was invited to take the helm of the Chinese team following her success at the Turin Games where she helped Apolo to the victory, made Wang and her compatriots more determined to win.

"I have full faith in her, and she believes me," said Wang Meng.

Although, the harmony was not there at first when Li, a silver medalist at the 1992 Albertville Games, went back to her homeland to join the Chinese team on a four-year contract. At the 2007 Asian Winter Games, Wang criticized Li for her training method and game tactics in a TV interview, resulting in a four-month suspension of the Olympic champion from the national side.

"It had all passed," Wang recalled. "We had some misunderstandings at first, but then we found out that we share the same value and we have the same target which inspired us to work hard shoulder to shoulder."

Li convinced her skaters gradually and the Chinese women broke out in the 2008-2009 World Cup season by finishing top of all women's overall standings for the first time since 2002. With the leadership of Wang and help of rising stars Zhou Yang and Liu Qiuhong, the Chinese women continued their dominance this season.

"I am not going to calculate the gold medals, I will just give my best, as I always do," said Li. "I am really excited with the Games getting closer and I hope my skaters could enjoy the process of the Games."

While the Chinese women expected to better their two-gold performance at the Salt Lack City Games in 2002, the South Korean men are aiming to tighten golden stranglehold. In the absence of injury-hampered Ahn, Lee Jung-su, the World Cup overall leader for the 1,000m and 1,500m events, will lead the field.

Ohno, the 27-year-old American who has collected five Olympic medals and nine world titles, and Charles Hamelin of Canada, who won the men's 500m world title in 2007 and 2009 and finished first in this season's 500m World Cup, will be among the main challengers.

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