China’s Olympic report card

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…

Best performance

eca86bd9ddb41474e88406Zhang 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.

Worst performance

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

Liu Rui, Zhang Jialiang, Bad DexinThe 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.

Qi Guangpu's final jump did not go well...
Qi Guangpu’s final jump did not go well…

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

Li Yan (top) celebrates another gold medal
Li Yan (top) celebrates another gold medal

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.”


Future star

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.

Worst decision

Liu Qiuhong (R), with teammate Kong Xue
Liu Qiuhong (R), with teammate Kong Xue

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).

Best quote

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.”

Overall grade


4 thoughts on “China’s Olympic report card”

  1. Interesting write up, some of what you say correct, like even myself having spent many months with Li Yen before Sochi also does not know her salary. But whatever she gets, i tell you, she is a good coach, and deserves all that she gets.

    However on that ‘male’ athlete that collided with Wang Meng. Now it was not entirely his fault (in my opinion – i was there). If my memory is correct it was towards of a high-intensity training week, and at the end of that morning session. This means a lot of fatigue in all the skaters. It’s well known in medical research that fatigue is one of the biggest risk factors for injuries in athletes. It’s highly likely that fatigue had impaired the neuromuscular or motor control (aka balance and stability on ice) and also the athletes concentration and reaction times (as well as many other factors). This could of resulted in either of the skaters crashing (without the collision), or caused the collision to occur (due to either or both of the skaters fatigue and reduced ability to react). Now the injury that she sustained does not normally occur due to contact alone, often in field sports when their boot gets stuck in the grass and their ‘own’ body weight/force goes over the foot (if you did your research you would know some of this). So that said the ‘likely’ mechanism of injury could of had an array of other factors involved either skates, ice, or barrier causing such injury, and his collision or body weight over the top may or may not made it worse. Also this sport is full of injuries to start with, it’s just part of the sport, skaters crash almost everyday in training, some lucky and get straight back up with just a bruise, and some not lucky. Now we don’t know exactly what happened, as it happened so quick, but using what we know about such injuries in medical research, we could speculate conclusions that it’s not entirely his fault. All the skaters idolize her, and for obvious reasons, so the result of your media blame could of had big impact on him psychologically, now we are just lucky they picked themselves up to succeed at Sochi.

    Also regarding Li Jianrou, she is the nicest out of the Chinese athletes, so to suggest she fell out with coach is wrong. Coaches are always friends and enemies of athletes at the same time. One Russian coach once told me, “if athletes like me, then i am not a good coach. I obviously do not train them hard enough, or put enough pressure on them to force them to improve.” To also suggest she doesn’t deserve to carry the flag is also wrong. Reasons she deserves the flag is due to her contributions to the sport. Prior to 2010 she was one of the best, if not the best skaters in the world. However injury forced her out of Vancouver, and she fought on. Although no Olympic success, she has a lot of success to her name on the world circuit. Has always been there to support the team, and is one of the seniors to the team (in absence of Wang Meng). And fully deserves the flag.

    1. Many thanks for your comment and for all your fantastic insight. The “Worst Performance” award to the unnamed male skater was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, given the medals that Wang Meng had been expected to win, rather than outright blaming him.

      The stories about Li Jianrou were that Li Yan gave preference to other athletes with regards to changing skates/equipment – but not to Li Jianrou – though as you say, coaches aren’t supposed to be friends, and if that’s what it took to light a fire under Li and propel her to gold, then she has earned every penny of her contract!

      I’m still far from convinced about the decision to let Liu Qiuhong carry the flag at the closing ceremony. While I appreciate the contribution to the team – which is all too often ignored in China – I still think the person who carries the flag at the Olympic closing ceremony should be the athlete with the most outstanding performance at that edition of the Games, or over several Olympics.

      By the way, how is Wang Meng these days?

      1. She is still in China, don’t worry she is still around, did her rehab and now like most of the winter athletes – they are taking much needed breaks with their family and friends, or studying ect.. she did the same after Vancouver where she spent 1 year having a break in the USA and studying English. Before then potentially concentrating back on training leading towards 2018.

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