HARBIN, Northeast China -- Retired speed skating star Wang Manli reckoned that the lack of experience has taken two golds away from the favorites Chinese skaters in the long track speed skating of the Harbin Winter Universiade here Thursday.
China's Zhou Yang (C), Liu Qiuhong (L) and Sun Linlin smile during the awarding ceremony for the women's 1500m short track speed skating finals at the 24th World Winter Universiade in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Feb. 19, 2009. Zhou took the gold medal of the event. Liu won the silver medal while Sun got the bronze. [Xinhua]
Pre-tournament favorite Yu Jing of the host country settled for a silver after losing both rounds of her rivalry in the women's 500 meters to South Korea's Lee Sang Hwa, missing the universiade's first gold up to grab.
On the men's part, China's No. 1 in short-course, Yu Fengtong, beat Lee Kang Seok by 0.02 seconds in the first race but was later overtaken by the South Korean in the second and gave up the top position in the general standings with a 0.05-second deficit.
Watching from the stands, Wang Manli, a speed skating silver medalist at the Turin Winter Olympic Games in 2006, said it was a pity for the hosts to narrowly lose the titles, but felt it nothing surprising.
"All the Chinese skaters have played their normal level, though not to their best performance," said the 35-year-old Wang, who announced retirement early last year after being long troubled with a knee injury.
"No one should be blamed for the defeat, but the lack of experience of the whole Chinese squad for this universiade," she added.
According to Wang, both the men's and women's titles have gone to the better ones in Thursday's race.
"Yu Jing is fully qualified to beat any one in the tournament, but she's under huge pressure in a home competition, while the South Korean Lee has raced more on international stage and holds a better position in the world rankings," she said.
"Yu Fengtong is for sure the best male speed skater of China, but his opponent Lee Kang Seok is the bronze medalist of the discipline in Turin 2006," added Wang, hinting that Lee's just better than Yu.
Wang, however, declined to rule out China's chances in the long track speed skating competitions after Thursday's disappointments, as among the 14 events, the men's and women's 100 and 1,000 meters may resume the rivalries between China and South Korea.
"I'm still positive and believe that the Chinese skaters are hopeful to win a title or more in the short-course races, especially in the women's events," she said.