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China eyes 2022 bid as it prepares for Sochi Games

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-27 08:23

China expects a strong performance at the Sochi Winter Olympics while also earning support for its bid to host the event in 2022.

China will send a 139-member delegation, including 66 athletes, 24 officials and 49 coaches and staff members, to compete in 49 events in four sports - skating, curling, skiing and biathlon - at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, according to the General Administration of Sport of China. The Games will be held from Feb 7 to 23.

President Xi Jinping is to attend the opening ceremony on Feb 7, making him the first Chinese president to travel overseas for a major sporting event. Xi visited Russia last year after becoming president.

"President Xi's trip to Sochi, at Putin's invitation, shows China's support for the Olympic movement and reflects close China-Russia relations and friendship between the two heads of state," Li Hui, Chinese ambassador to Russia, told CCTV news on Sunday.

Sports Minister Liu Peng, chef de mission of the delegation, urged Chinese athletes to perform well in Sochi to establish a strong national image while earning international support for Beijing and Zhangjiakou's joint bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

China will have a tough time matching its medal tally from the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 because of injuries and retirements, said Xiao Tian, vice-minister of sports and deputy head of the delegation.

"Despite the historical breakthroughs we achieved in Vancouver four years ago, China remains a small force in winter sports compared with international powers," Xiao said at a news conference to unveil the delegation on Sunday.

China bagged five gold, two silver and four bronze medals at the Vancouver Games, raising the nation's all-time Winter Olympics gold medal haul to nine since its debut at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the United States, in 1980.

Xiao said China expects to win two or three gold medals this year in speed skating, figure skating and freestyle aerial skiing - areas in which China has traditionally performed well.

China's short-track speed skating team, which took home four gold medals in Vancouver, suffered a blow when four-time Olympic titlist skater Wang Meng broke her right ankle after colliding with a male teammate during a training session in Shanghai.

Zhao Yinggang, director of the winter sports administration, confirmed on Sunday that Wang will not compete in the Games.

"It isn't realistic for her to resume training quickly after suffering from such a severe injury. Participating in the Olympics means a lot to every athlete, but this isn't the end of her career. Wang has a positive mindset during this tough moment," Zhao said.

Two-time Olympian Zhou Yang and world champion titlist Liu Qiuhong will lead the short-track contingent in the women's 500m and 3,000m relay races. China is also expected to perform well in the men's 1,000m race.

In figure skating, Olympic silver-winning pair Pang Qing and Tong Jian will lead a squad mixed with experience and youth.

"Because of my age, my fitness and skills may have declined. But the chemistry with my partner, who is now my girlfriend, will strengthen our artistic performance. We hope for a perfect ending this time," said Tong, who at 34 is the oldest athlete in the delegation.

The women's curling team as well as the freestyle skiing squad led by aerial specialists Li Nina and Qi Guangpu are also medal contenders.

Still, Xiao said the country should focus more on cultivating young athletes in all events while further promoting winter sports.

"We should forget about the medal obsession and try to popularize winter events at the grassroots level. That way, the world will recognize our effort to host the Winter Olympics," Xiao said.

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