Friday October 18, 2019

CHINESE AND US ATHLETES COMPETE FOR GOLD AT THE 2014 SOCHI WINTER OLYMPICS

February 7, 2014

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is the home of many Olympic firsts. It is the first time the Olympic Games will allow athletes to compete as independent participants [without a country sponsor]. It is the first Olympic game to have two sets of three siblings competing against each other – three Canadian sisters in women’s moguls and three New Zealand brothers in men’s freestyle skiing. A Chinese President will travel to an overseas sporting event for the first time. Also, the US will send a record-breaking 230 member team to the Winter Olympics.

So as the world gears up for the Sochi Games, what are China and the United States’ chances of taking home Olympic gold? Is either nation poised to come out on top of the medal count, or will it elude them both? In what events are both nations likely to find success, and in what events will they compete against each other?

China

Despite China’s strength in the Summer Olympics, it has yet to find parallel success parallel in the Winter Olympics. Winter sports are not popular in China, and only three of the country’s 30 provinces have enough annual snowfall to make skiing feasible. However, in recent years, China has invested a lot in developing talent in winter sports and recruiting foreign coaches, hoping to win more medals and make its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics more competitive. In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, China won 11 medals (5 gold) and finished at a respectable seventh in the total medal standings.

China is sending 66 athletes to Sochi this year – 28 fewer than in 2010. Unfortunately, its star athlete, Wang Meng, a short-track speed skater who won three golds in Vancouver, broke her ankle in training and will not participate at Sochi. However, China’s speed skating team has other medal hopefuls. Seven of its 9 total Winter Olympic gold medals have been won in speed skating events.

Other than short-track speed skating, China also excels in aerial freestyle skiing. Three athletes to watch in this category are: 1) Li Nina – Li is 31 years old. She won silver medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2006 Games in Turin; 2) Xu Mengtao – Xu is a 23-years old, former gymnast and reigning world champion in women’s aerial freestyle skiing; 3) Liu Zhongqing “Daqing Flying Man” – Liu is 28 years old. He won bronze in the men’s aerials event at the Vancouver Olympics.

China’s female curling team is also a favorite to medal in Sochi. They won bronze at their first Olympic appearance in Vancouver.

USA

Team USA, with 230 members, will be the largest athlete delegation for any nation in Winter Olympics history. The team features 106 returning Olympians, 49 of whom are Olympic medalists. The most decorated member of Team USA is skier Bode Miller, who has earned five Olympic medals in his previous four trips to the Winter Games. In Vancouver, the US won 37 medals, topping the medal standings – 7 medals ahead of second place Germany.

Like China, Team USA has also suffered from injuries that will hurt its medal chances. Evan Lysacek, the defending gold medalist in figure skating, tore his hip labrum and will miss the Games. Two-time gold medalist in snowboard cross Seth Wescott will not compete due to an ACL injury. In December, skier Lindsey Vonn, the defending downhill champion and a threat to win five medals, also reinjured her ACL, removing her from contention.

However, the US presents many other strong contenders in a variety of events. These include Ted Ligety, who won three gold medals at the 2013 world championships in men’s skiing, and the famous “Flying Tomato” (Shaun White), who has taken home past Olympic golds in men’s snowboard for his signature moves. The US men’s hockey team is also looking to make a comeback after a disappointing overtime loss to Canada in Vancouver’s gold-medal game.

The US and China will most likely face off against each other in figure skating and speed skating events. China’s Pang Qing and Tong Jian and US champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir are both expected to perform well in the pair figure skating event. US speed skaters Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe will compete with China’s Yu Fengtong and Wang Beixing in women’s speed skating.

Prediction

The Wall Street Journal predicts that neither the US nor China will lead in the Sochi medal race. Instead, Norway will win the majority of medals in cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and biathlon events to take home the title of 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics champion. However, the US will follow with a close second place – which may come as a disappointment to the largest Winter Olympics team in history.

Presidential Travel

Absent from the Olympics is US President Barack Obama, who will not be traveling to Russia to attend the opening ceremonies in  protest of Russia’s human rights abuses, which include anti-gay legislation and persecution of journalists. First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will not attend the Games either. Instead, the Olympic delegation will be led by Janet A. Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security. Others world leaders who are not attending include French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck.

In contrast, China’s President Xi Jinping has already arrived in Russia. It is the first time a Chinese president has attended an Olympics’ opening ceremony – a signal of the growing importance of the Winter Olympics to China (as it bids to host the Winter Olympics in 2022) and of the closer ties that Xi has established with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. China’s Ambassador to Russia Li Hui said that Xi’s visit also shows mutual support of the two nations over issues of major concern, like the Syria crisis and the Iran nuclear issue.

For more information on the Sochi Games, see the following news articles:

The Christian Science MonitorSochi Olympics: China strives for world-beater clout at Winter Games, too

Wall Street JournalThe Sochi Olympics: China’s Athletes to Watch

Wall Street Journal“Who Will Win the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Medal Count?”

XinhuaXi’s trip to Sochi to inject impetus into China-Russia ties

Xinhua“Xi’s Sochi visit to deepen Sino-Russian ties”

For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

SINA (新浪)“冬奥会短道前瞻:无”濛”中国摘几金 男子群雄逐鹿”

China News Service (中国新闻社)“习近平今赴俄出席冬奥会开幕式 公共外交为新年开”

Compiled and edited by Amanda Conklin