The competition in short track speedskating is getting fiercer so South Korea is no longer China’s only opponent, according to national team head coach Li Yan.

Li has brought a 12-skater team to Shanghai for the ISU Short Track Speedskating World Cup, to be staged at Pudong’s Oriental Sports Center starting today.

A total of 160 skaters from more than 20 countries and regions will compete in men’s and women’s 500 meters, 1,000, 1,500, men’s 5,000 relay and women’s 3,000 relay races over three days of competition. Han Tianyu, the 2016 world championships 1,500 winner and overall champion, and Wu Dajing, worlds runner-up in the 500, will lead the men’s squad, while the women’s team is led by Fan Kexin, the 2016 worlds 500 winner.

“The team we have is relatively young,” Li told a press conference in Shanghai yesterday. “Our main goal is to prepare for the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, next February.”

The Shanghai event is the third stop of the six-leg World Cup this year. China ranks fourth out of 12 teams in the medal standing after the two stops, behind South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands.

“I know the team did not perform well enough in the last two World Cup stops,” said Li. “Every team has its own pace. We will concentrate on ourselves and seek to improve in the upcoming competitions.”

Asked whether China has been left behind in the competition against long-term rival South Korea, Li said the speedskating world is evolving, with more nations joining the top-tier competitions.

“Seven countries have shared the 20 gold medals produced in the first two World Cup events, which reveals the fierce nature of the competition,” she said.

“As a team with lots of past glories, we are aware of our responsibility (of making more achievements). South Korea is hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2018 and it’s normal for their skaters to show strong competitiveness at this stage. I believe we will be strong, too, when China hosts the Winter Games in 2022.”

Shanghai Daily

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