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Veteran helps Team China win 1st gold at Beijing 2022

By LEI LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-07 07:23
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Chinese (center), Italian (left) and Hungarian (right) medal winners of the mixed team relay of short track speed skating celebrate at the award ceremony in Beijing on Sunday. China won the gold medal, Italy the silver and Hungary the bronze. FENG YONGBIN/CHINA DAILY

Twelve years after joining the national team, Fan Kexin finally stood up on the highest podium at the Olympic rink. Together with teammates, the 28-year-old new Olympic champion won the mixed team relay gold medal on Saturday at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

It was also the first gold for the host country at the Beijing Games, which received congratulations from the central leadership.

"On behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, I express warm congratulations to the gold medalists and the Chinese sports delegation," Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan wrote in a congratulatory letter on Sunday.

Sun said she expected the Chinese delegation to gain more glories for the country with fighting spirit and morality.

Fan, the leading figure of the Chinese women's short track speed skating team, has long dreamed of winning Olympic gold.

"I've been waiting for this gold medal for 12 years. I've waited for it for so long," Fan said after the victory, in tears. "I have always believed in the team. From the day I entered the national team, I have always believed in my teammates."

Fan was born in September 1993 in Qitaihe, a city in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, which is a cradle for a number of world-renowned short track speed skaters, including China's first Winter Olympic gold medalist Yang Yang and four-time Olympic champion Wang Meng.

Fan didn't turn to skating as a child, but chose dancing like many other girls. However, the relatively high training costs ended her hopes of becoming a dancer, as her family ran into financial difficulties.

Since 2003, when Fan was selected by her first coach, Ma Qingzhong, to train as a short track speed skater, she worked hard at training, getting up every day at 4 am for a one-hour training session before going to school.

"We didn't have to call her in the morning as she could get up herself," Fan's mother, Nie Guiling, recalled. "She was always reluctant to leave the rink and wanted to train more."

Fan's career was put into jeopardy when she was diagnosed with severe anemia in 2008. Her parents asked her to give up the sport, but Fan insisted on carrying on and returned to the rink the following year.

In 2010, Fan was selected for the national team, and the following year she claimed the gold medal in the women's 500m at her world championships debut. She has dominated the event ever since, earning 14 world championships medals, including five golds in both the 500m and relay. She became the leader of the Chinese women's team after team leader Wang Meng injured her ankle in 2014.

Despite her world championship success, Fan only had one Olympic medal to her name-a silver in the 1,000m in 2014. That year in Sochi, she had been the favorite to win gold in the 500m, but fell in the second lap in the semifinals and ranked fifth overall. Four years later in Pyeongchang, Fan was again the 500m favorite but was disqualified in the semifinals. Then, in the relay final, Fan was judged to have impeded Choi Min-jeong from the Republic of Korea, leading to disqualification for China.

The Olympic gold in Beijing came after Fan's persistence, as well as that of the whole team.

"We've been experiencing tough training in the past four years. Every day when we finished training, we'd have blood in our throats. But at the moment we won, I thought it was all worth it. We've made it," Fan said after the victory.

China's short track speed skating team still has more medal chances at the Games. Fan has qualified for the quarterfinals of the women's 500m and its final will be held on Monday.

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