BEIJING, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- With one month to go until the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Chinese athletes are making their final push to strive for glory at the quadrennial winter sports extravaganza.
Over 400 Chinese athletes from 29 teams are sweating on their final preparations with the aim of achieving the country's best ever result at a Winter Olympics on home soil.
ACE ON ICE
12 of China's 13 Winter Olympic gold medals have come from short track speed skating, figure skating and speed skating. These three disciplines are expected to once again play a key role in contributing to the country's medal haul in Beijing.
Despite changing their head coach twice in recent years, China's short track speed skating team has lived up to its status as one of the powerhouses in the 2021/22 World Cup season.
Ren Ziwei has shown great form in the lead-up to the Olympics, and secured his berth at Beijing 2022 together with 2018 champion Wu Dajing through their World Cup victories. Those two will play a key role as China seeks to go for gold in the men's and relay events.
China has racked up at least one gold medal in short track speed skating at every Olympics since Salt Lake City in 2002, and the country's aces in ice sports are expected to continue their gold rush at Beijing 2022.
In speed skating, Ning Zhongyan and Gao Tingyu also secured their places in China's Olympic roster with World Cup titles.
Ning claimed two gold and two silver medals over 1,000m and 1,500m at the World Cup, and clocked a personal best in the 1,000m in Calgary, underscoring his status as a leading figure in China's speed skating team. After missing some World Cup races, Gao won one gold and one silver in the 500m event, and the 2018 PyeongChang bronze medalist is striving for even better four years on. China also has a medal hope in the women's team pursuit event.
After missing out on the gold medal by 0.43 points in PyeongChang and overcoming injuries, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong will once again strive for glory in figure skating. The two-time world champions won the Grand Prix of Figure Skating series in Canada and Italy during the 2021/22 season, with compatriots Peng Cheng and Jin Yang finishing runners-up in Italy.
The top five pairs in the latest world rankings all belong to China and Russia, and insiders say that both countries will dominate the figure skating pairs at Beijing 2022.
Jin Boyang, who finished fourth in the men's singles in PyeongChang, is eager to go one better on home ice this time.
China's women's curling team claimed a bronze medal in its Olympic debut at Vancouver 2010. But China disappointed at PyeongChang, with the men's team failing to qualify and neither the women's nor mixed doubles teams showing well.
GU LEADS SNOW PUSH
Han Xiaopeng has won China's sole Olympic gold in snow sports so far with his freestyle aerials victory at Turin 2006, but the country can expect a different story at Beijing 2022, thanks in part to the rapid rise of teenage sensation Gu Ailing.
Gu has been in the limelight since the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne in 2020, and won multiple gold medals at the X Games Aspen 2021 and the Freeski World Championships.
Recovering from injuries, Gu claimed her first Freeski big air World Cup title in Steamboat, United States by stomping a right double cork 1440, making her the first woman to have landed the trick in any freeski competition.
The 18-year-old has displayed her strength in the big air, slopestyle and halfpipe, giving China gold medal hopes in these three events.
China won two aerials team World Cup titles last month, and four-time Olympian Xu Mengtao and 28-year-old Kong Fanyu were also crowned in the women's events.
Snowboard veterans Liu Jiayu and Cai Xuetong are poised for their fourth Olympic appearance, with Cai winning the halfpipe World Cup title in Colorado on December 11, 2021.
"As a veteran, I have the responsibility of passing on the tradition to younger teammates, and pushing to my limit for a good result on home snow," said Liu, who took the halfpipe silver medal at PyeongChang.
Breakthroughs have also been made on the men's side. Su Yiming, 17, became the first Chinese men's snowboarder to win a big air World Cup title, and Yang Wenlong was the world's first snowboarder to have landed a quad cork 1980.
BRIDGE THE GAP
When China was awarded the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in 2015, the country had no experience of one-third of the 109 events at the Games.
Looking to achieve full participation at Beijing 2022, China has made great efforts in developing those events where there are big gaps to bridge, and some breakthroughs have been achieved.
"Beijing 2022 has boosted the competitiveness of Chinese winter sports," said Li Yingchuan, deputy director of China's General Administration of Sport.
Geng Wenqiang, who took up skeleton in 2015, won China's first World Cup title in Innsbruck, Austria on November 26, 2021.
Historic moments also took place in other sliding disciplines for China, as Fan Duoyao achieved the country's best result in the men's luge World Cup with his 32nd-place finish in Yanqing, one of Beijing 2022's three competition zones.
Chinese alpine skiers have previously found it a daunting task to qualify for the Winter Olympics, so securing places in 10 out of 11 events at Beijing 2022 speaks to the athletes' arduous preparation and huge efforts in accumulating ranking points.
"We are quite confident of achieving a full quota through our efforts in ranking points competitions in January," said team leader Liu Zhen.
China's men's ice hockey team will make their Olympic debut in Beijing, and their female counterparts will make a return to the Olympic stage after missing out at PyeongChang.
One male and two female athletes have also secured places for China in four events in ski jumping.
Zhao Jiawen finished 22nd in the men's Gundersen normal hill and 10km race at the FIS Nordic combined Continental Cup in Nizhny Tagil, Russia on November 26, 2021, earning China its first Olympic spot in the discipline. Enditem