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Olympics-Skeleton-China’s greenhorns impress in training runs – Metro US

Olympics-Skeleton-China’s greenhorns impress in training runs

Skeleton – Women Official Training
Skeleton – Women Official Training

YANQING, China (Reuters) – China’s Zhao Dan had never touched a skeleton bobsled four years ago when the world’s top riders like Britain’s Laura Deas and Austria’s Janine Flock were competing in Pyeongchang, but the 19-year-old is now challenging them for gold.

Zhao was fastest on Wednesday in two of the six training runs ahead of the real battle in Beijing on Thursday, with her compatriots Yan Wengang, 24, and Yin Zheng, 25, going well in the men’s practice session.

Along with Li Yuxi, 23, in the women’s event, China’s four skeleton racers are reaping the benefit of much greater familiarity with the “sleeping dragon” 1,615-metre track at the National Sliding Centre.

“I’m feeling more confident, with the training runs going well, but it could change a lot when it comes to competition,” said Zhao, the youngest competitor in the event.

“A lot change in this sport and we won’t know the outcome until the last second,” she added.

More experienced rivals were doing their best to prepare in the short time available.

“Trying to figure out the equipment has been the biggest challenge, I wish I had one more day of training,” American Katie Uhlaender told reporters in a final Games appearance for the 37-year-old veteran of four Olympics going back to Turin in 2006.

She has had more time on the track than the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Katie Tannenbaum, 36, who left a COVID-19 isolation room the morning of the final practice runs.

“I never imagined that that would be the ultimate goal, just to get two training runs to be able to race,” she said.

While most of her competitors got used to the track at a test event in October, Tannenbaum has had just two runs on it before the competition.

“I was speaking with my coaches this morning. I said, all right, the goal for the first run: get across the finish line without crashing. Goal for the second run: get across the finish line without crashing. We don’t have time to try and hone in the finer details,” she said.

(Reporting by David Kirton, editing by Ed Osmond)

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