The Chinese delegation came away from Sochi with 3 gold medals, 4 silvers and 2 bronze, good for 12th in the medals table. China Sports Insider reviews the highs and lows…
Zhang Hong, gold, 1,000 m speed skating. Starting in the 7th of 18 heats (when the top ranked skaters typically go at the end), Zhang started slowly but then turned on the burners. Her time ripped up the track record and no one even came close – her winning margin was bigger than the previous four finals combined. Best of all, it was China’s first ever long track Olympic title.
This award goes to whichever male skater collided with short track speed skater Wang Meng – China’s most decorated winter Olympian – last month in training, fracturing her ankle and knocking her out of the Games. He has not yet been identified, but there are only so many candidates…
The “What Might Have Been…” award
The men’s curling team came within a whisker of winning what would have been a sensational bronze medal: they dominated their final game against the world champions Sweden until two self-inflicted errors by overstepping the hogline – the curling equivalent of a wild pitch (baseball) or no ball (cricket) – saw them effectively gift victory to the Swedes. But the Chinese team, led by skip Liu Rui, was the talk of the tournament and coach Marcel Rocque – one of 10 foreign coaches in China’s delegation – has transformed them into a force to be reckoned with.
Most disappointing performance
Male aerials skier Qi Guangpu. The world champion started well, qualifying for the final comfortably at the first attempt. Things went even better as he posted the best jump in the first round of the final, then the second best (after teammate Jia Zongyang) as the pair progressed to the super final, or final four. But when it mattered most, both misjudged their jumps: Jia was marginally less bad, placing 3rd out of 4 to take the bronze, while Qi (below) left with nothing.
Most controversial moment
Short track – take your pick: the crash that took out the field, allowing Li Jianrou to skate unchallenged for gold; the Chinese penalized in the relay final, while the Koreans were not; Fan Kexin’s attempted grab at Korean skater towards the end of the 1,000 m final; Wu Dajing pushed by a Russian and tripped by a Dutchman in the final of the men’s 5,000 m relay; the list goes on…
Best kept state secret
The salary of China’s short track head coach Li Yan has been the subject of much speculation, with some reports saying she earns as much as 4 million yuan ($650,000) a year. She’s not without controversy: since taking over in 2006, she has feuded with Wang Meng, who then groveled to her on her knees three years later. She was also rumored to have fallen out with Li Jianrou in Sochi, but Fan Kexin said she was like a mother for the team, both in training and in everyday life. As for her salary, Li Yan has the last word:
“How much my contract is worth is a secret, known only to a few heads of the Chinese winter sports administration center.”
Fan Kexin. She was tipped to win the 500 m, but crashed, and then made a crucial mistake in the relay final as China lost out to their arch rivals Korea. But her performance in the 1000 m showed the 20-year-old has the talent to succeed. She admitted she was surprised by the fierceness of the competition in Sochi, but this experience should stand her in good stead.
The decision to let Liu Qiuhong carry the Chinese flag at the closing ceremony. Li Nina, the veteran aerials skier who finished 4th in her fourth Games, was the original choice, but an injury meant Li couldn’t walk, so they chose the only active member of the women’s short track team not to win a medal. Good teammate or not, there were plenty of other better candidates (see above).
17-year-old figure skater Li Zijun on the facilities in Sochi:
“The food is OK. There is Chinese food in the village, but it is not really Chinese. It is like foreigners’ Chinese food.”