China sends 236 athletes to Asian Winter Games

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China on Friday announced a 236-strong delegation for the 8th Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, which will run from Feb. 19-26.

China will compete in all sports of the Games which attracts some 2,300 athletes from 31 countries and regions.

The Chinese short track speed skaters, who captured six gold medals at the last two Winter Olympics, are believed to be strong medal contenders in Japan.

Skater Han Tianyu won the men's 1,500m at the 2016 World Championships, and Wu Dajing claimed the men's 500m title at the 2016 World Cup in Shanghai. World champion Fan Kexin will try to prove herself in the women's 500m this time as she failed in 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Keeping a low key, Li Yan, head coach of the shork track team, told Xinhua that China face the challenge from old rival South Korea and improving Japan and Kazakhstan. South Korea took two short track golds in Sochi.

In figure skating, China sends two pairs Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao and Peng Cheng/Jin Yang to strive for gold. The 20-year-old rising star Jin Boyang is also expected to touch a men's singles medal.

The 33-year-old veteran Zhang Hao, the silver medalist of 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, will go for his first Asian Winter Games together with his 21-year-old new partner Yu Xiaoyu.

Zhao Hongbo, the champion of 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and now the national team coach of pair figure skating, told Xinhua that the two new pairs are getting better and ready for the Games.

"They're practicing all the time, not only for Sapporo, but also for Pyeongchang and Beijing," said Zhao. "We take this time as a big rehearsal before next year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and we're looking forward to the best performance in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics."

Zhang Hong, China's first-ever Olympic gold medalist in speed skating, will try to shine at Obihiro, around 200km away from Sapporo, with her teammate Yu Jing.

China will also pursue medals in snowboarding halfpipe, cross-country skiing and curling. Freestyle skiing aerials, one of the Chinese superior events, is excluded and all the four freestyle categories are moguls.

Zhang Yiwei, Cai Xuetong and Liu Jiayu are believed to be competitive in snowboarding halfpipe.

Mikko Olavi Virtanen, head coach of cross-country skiing team, told Xinhua that his team aims to grab three medals at Sapporo.

According to Gao Zhidan, head of the delegation, China will take Asian Winter Games as an opportunity to learn from neighbors and to make progress in many inferior events, the skiing in particular. China has only won one skiing gold in Winter Olympic history.

China has now launched new national team programs in snow sports including luge, bobsled, skeleton, ski jumping and Nordic combined, and has hired many foreign coaches. Furthermore, many teams are training abroad.

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