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Games athletes vow to make nation proud

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-07 07:53
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President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, talks with athletes, coaches and staff members at an ice and snow sports training base in Beijing, capital of China, Jan 4, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Team China's preparations boosted by Xi's encouragement during an inspection tour

Encouraged by President Xi Jinping's visit and instructions, China's athletes and coaches have pledged to make their country proud at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics after strong preparations for the Games.

With less than 30 days to go before the Olympics open on Feb 4, China's athletes have had their final preparations boosted by the president's warm greetings and encouragement after Xi visited a national training base in Beijing on Tuesday. During his visit, Xi inspected facilities, services and logistics support for the country's Olympic hopefuls.

The president's strong interest in the athletes' performances in recent warm-up events and their competition schedule for the Beijing Games lifted the spirits of China's top competitors, such as Olympic gold medalist Wu Dajing.

"While walking with us at our training hall, he slowed down, turned to me and asked, 'Dajing, when is your first race at the Olympics? I might come to see you if my schedule allows me'," Wu said, recounting his chat with the president at a symposium on Wednesday organized by the National Winter Sports Administrative Center to study Xi's guidance.

"The fact that he is the busy leader of our country, but he still cares about us and is truly interested in our events is really inspiring and encouraging," said Wu, who won China's only gold medal at the 2018 Winter Games in the men's 500m short-track speed skating event.

Xi's inspection tour on Tuesday, which also included visits to the National Speed Skating Oval, the Main Media Center and the athletes' village in Beijing's downtown, was his fifth trip to Winter Olympics venues and national training facilities since Beijing won the right to host the Games in 2015. In doing so, Beijing became the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, after it hosted the summer edition of the Games in 2008.

A less-developed winter sports nation before Beijing's successful bid, China has progressed strongly in all Winter Olympic events, facilitated by strong financial backing from the central government and international coaching expertise.

Chinese athletes competing in short-track speed skating, figure skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding have competed in a series of warm-up and Olympic qualifying events. Many set personal bests and national records as they prepared to try and deliver China its biggest medal haul at the Winter Olympics.

So far, Chinese athletes have qualified in 95 of the 109 medal events to be held at the Beijing 2022 Games. This compares with the 55 events Chinese athletes competed in at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, and qualifying events are still underway for the Beijing Games.

"We are in many more events than we were years ago, and this mainly comes down to the support from the central government led by President Xi," said Ni Huizhong, director of the winter sports administrative center.

"Yet we still need to stay humble, calm and focused on our mission to present the best athletic performances at our home Games to make it a great success as the president expects," he said.

Many of the Chinese athletes are training at multiple national bases for their events behind closed doors due to COVID-19 precautions. China's Winter Olympics team will also approach their pre-Games preparations with extra vigilance to anti-doping efforts. A zero-tolerance policy has been taken toward doping violations and risks, Ni said.

Li Yan, head coach of China's long-track speed skating squad, said with athletes' finalizing their preparations for the Games, it's critically important that team managers and coaches ease the pressure on them, especially as they are competing in front of their home fans.

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