BEIJING (Reuters) – The following is a look at China’s top 10 Winter Olympic greats.
YE QIAOBO (SPEED SKATING)
Ye won China’s first ever Winter Olympics medal, a silver in the 500 metres at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. Ye, originally from the northeastern province of Jilin, won a second silver, in the 1000m, at the same Games.
At the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, she gained extra plaudits at home by overcoming the pain of an ongoing knee injury to win a bronze medal, also in the 1000m.
YANG YANG (A) (SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING)
Yang Yang (A) won China’s first ever Winter Olympics gold medal, in the 500m at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. She followed it up with another gold at the same Games, making her the first short track speed skater of any nationality to win more than one gold at a Winter Games.
In total Yang, originally from Heilongjiang province, is a five-time Olympic medallist and six-time Overall World Champion.
The bracketed (A) after her name refers to her birth month, August. It is often used to differentiate her from fellow Chinese short track speed skater and sometimes rival, Yang Yang (S), who was born in September. Though spelled the same in the romanised alphabet their names use different Chinese characters.
After retirement Yang Yang (A) became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was part of the Beijing 2022 bid-winning team and appointed Vice President of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
SHEN XUE AND ZHAO HONGBO (FIGURE SKATING)
Shen and Zhao were household names in China but became even more famous after they won the country’s first figure skating Olympic gold medal in the pairs at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Shen and Zhao, both from Heilongjiang province, began skating together in 1992 when Shen was 14 and Zhao was 19. Then in 2007, 15 years and many championships and medals later, the pair announced that they would get married.
Shen and Zhao are three-time world champions and twice Olympic bronze medallists from the 2002 Salt Lake City and the 2006 Turin Winter Games.
HAN XIAOPENG (FREESTYLE SKIING)
Han became the first Chinese man to claim a Winter Olympic gold when he won the aerials event at the 2006 Turin Games. In doing so he also became the first Chinese athlete to win gold in a snow sport at the Olympics.
Han is relatively unusual amongst China’s Winter Games medal winners in that he comes from somewhere other than the country’s northeast.
He grew up in the central city Xuzhou, practised gymnastics at a sports school there before being plucked, aged 12, by a talent spotter to go to the northeastern city of Shenyang to learn freestyle skiing.
WANG MENG (SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING)
Wang is China’s most decorated Winter Olympian ever with four golds, one silver and a bronze.
Wang, originally from Heilongjiang province, won her first Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Games in the 500m and her other three, in the 500m, the 1000m and the 3000m relay at the Vancouver Games four years later.
Unlike most of her more conservative-sounding team mates, Wang had an outspoken and fiery character.
She was expelled twice from the national team, in 2007 after criticising a coach and in 2011 after a fight with her team manager.
After the 2011 incident, which was widely discussed on social media, Wang moved to Canada before being invited back into the team just over a year later.
ZHOU YANG (SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING)
Zhou is a triple Olympic champion. Only her former team mate Wang Meng has won more gold medals for China at the Winter Olympics. Zhou won her golds at the 2010 Vancouver Games and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Originally from Jilin province, Zhou, like many of China’s Winter Olympic medallists, attended and learned her event at a state-run sports school in the country’s northeast.
LI JIAJUN (MEN’S SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING)
Li, originally from Jilin province, is a five-time Olympic medallist – two silver and three bronze.
With the first of his five Olympic medals, a silver in the 1000m at the 1998 Nagano Games, Li became China’s first men’s individual winner of an Olympic medal.
ZHANG HONG (SPEED SKATING)
Zhang won China’s first ever speed skating Olympic gold with her victory in the 1000m at the 2014 Sochi Games.
After retirement Zhang, originally from Heilongjiang province, became an IOC committee member and a member of the organising committee of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
YANG YANG (S)(SHORT-TRACK SPEED SKATING)
Yang Yang (S), from Jilin province, is a five-time Olympic medallist.
She won three silvers at the 1998 Nagano Games in the 500m, 1000m and the 3000m relay. Four years later in Salt Lake City she added another silver in the 3000m relay and a bronze in the 1000m.
CHEN LU (FIGURE SKATING)
Chen is credited with inspiring a generation of Chinese figure skaters after winning China’s first ever Winter Olympics figure skating medal, a bronze in the ladies singles at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Chen, who hails from Jilin province, picked up another Olympic bronze at the Nagano Games before retiring from competition.
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Ken Ferris)