By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) – China plans to field athletes in as many disciplines as possible at the Beijing-hosted 2022 Winter Olympics in a major push for medals in a country that has had limited success in winter sports, a Chinese Olympic official said on Tuesday
China topped the medals table at the 2008 Summer Games, also hosted by Beijing, the host nation winning 48 gold medals out of 100 in total, but the country’s prowess in winter sports remains far less accomplished.
At last month’s 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, China finished 16th on the medals table, winning just one gold — in short-track speed skating — and nine overall.
However, the Deputy Director General of the Competition and Training Department of the Chinese Olympic Committee, Yang Shande, said that the wheels were in motion for a much improved performance in 2022.
“We hope in Beijing that the Chinese athletes will take part in all the events. It’s our first aim,” Yang told Reuters on the sidelines of a visit to Tokyo by various National Olympic Committee officials to survey venues for the 2020 Summer Games.
“Also we hope all Chinese athletes can have a good performance and get more medals and more gold medals.”
The vast nation, which regularly finishes in the top three performers at the Summer Games, has its work cut out, with China only claiming the first of 13 total Winter Olympic golds at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
“Short track and figure skating are very traditional events but we also want Chinese athletes to do more popular events, like freestyle (skiing) and bobsleigh,” Yang added.
Aside from a government drive to promote winter sports and build a huge pool of potential athletes, Yang said sports officials hoped to invite more foreign coaches to China and send more athletes overseas to train.
China would also seek to recognize talent in other more popular sports, such as soccer or the martial art of wushu, and convert them into Winter Olympians.
“They have basic training, they have strong balance — I think this is a very nice way, especially (in) the new events for China. We can find some talented (people),” Yang said. “It’s quicker.”
Yang’s hopes of increased finiancial support for the Beijing Games received a major boost on Tuesday when the Bank of China Ltd (BoC) said it would provide 30 billion yuan ($4.79 billion)for the winter sports industry over the next seven years.
“Chinese winter athletes will (have a) good performance,” Yang added. “I think they also will have a similar performance like the Beijing summer event.”
($1 = 6.2588 yuan)
(Editing by John O’Brien)