Overseas coaches back Team China up at Beijing 2022 Winter Games
Published: Feb 17, 2022 01:33 AM

Editor's Note 

After Chinese snowboarder Su Yiming won his gold medal in big air on Tuesday, he went straight to his coach Yasuhiro Sato, giving him an enormous hug as tears streamed down Su's face. Not just the pair who are described as an embodiment of China-Japan friendship, behind Team China's success at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, there are 51 overseas coaches from 19 countries among the Olympic coaching crew of 78. Many are multi gold medalists themselves, who are now firmly dedicated to Team China by seeing its potential for winter sport success as well as falling for the charm of Chinese culture.

Chinese snowboarder Su Yiming celebrates with his coach Yasuhiro Sato after winning gold in the men's big air on February 16, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese snowboarder Su Yiming celebrates with his coach Yasuhiro Sato after winning gold in the men's big air on February 16, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

Yasuhiro Sato, the Japanese 'father-like' coach

The relationship between Su, China's 17-year-old men's snowboard big air Olympic champion, and his Japanese coach Yasuhiro Sato started in "trust." 

"I feel that he really believed in me, he is not like a teenager, really a great kid," Sato told media. "He has a very strong sense of victory and defeat. He is very focused in training and has higher standards for himself."

Four years ago, the Japanese coach was not sure about coaching in China, but later he became a "father-like" figure to Su. After winning gold on Tuesday, Su hung the gold medal around Sato's neck. The two burst into tears together, Sato, patting Su on his back, said, "It's yours." Su replied, "Nope, it's yours."  

The scene moved netizens in both Japan and China. Sato said that there is nothing better than to make sports a bridge of friendship between China and Japan. 

Su's pre-race tradition is always to hug his coach.   

"When I hug him, I feel a very special power. It makes me more confident that I can finish the event more easily," said Su to media. 

Despite being a caring figure to Su, Sato is rigorous as a coach. He pays attention to the accuracy of every face and finger moves and always encourages Su, even when they burst into tears in front of media. Sato said that both of them are under huge pressure to do their best in Beijing. 

Sato backed him up when Su missed out on gold in the men's Olympic slopestyle final on February 7 after a judging error saw Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot given the top score. 

"I punched in the air at the moment he got the silver medal, I was way too excited," Sato said. 

Jaime Melton and Brad Prosser see Gu Ailing's way to success  

Jamie Melton has coached Gu since she was 10 years old. He is one of her most important mentors who have helped her since she became a professional athlete. 

"She was extremely diligent in training to the point that is hard to imagine," Melton, one of Gu's coaches and head coach of the Chinese National Slopestyle and Big Air Training team, told media. 

Besides training, the two are good friends. Gu shared a "Beijing Olympic" fashion vlog featuring Melton, turning the Gu's apartment in the Olympic Village into a runway walk. This was before the prodigy became both a gold and silver medalist in the Beijing 2022 Games, in big air and slopestyle, respectively. 

 "Gu has experienced a magical moment, and all her efforts eventually paid off. I'm very happy for her and proud of her achievements," said New Zealand coach Brad Prosser, who also trains Gu.  

Melton introduced Prosser to Gu when she was around 11 years old. 

"There is no doubt that Gu is talented, but I would not ignore the tremendous work she has put into training," Prosser said.  

In 2018, when Prosser became the technical coach guide to the Chinese national team, he brought the team to New Zealand. Prosser in New Zealand brought Gu luck. The next year, she became the first naturalized Chinese player - Gu was born in San Francisco - to win an international gold medal in the women's slopestyle event. 

"I am very proud of being part of it and I'm super happy for her," Prosser said. 

Kim Sun-tae, head coach of the Chinese national short-track speed skating team, celebrates after Team China won the mixed team relay gold at Beijing 2022 on February 5, 2022. Photo: IC

Kim Sun-tae, head coach of the Chinese national short-track speed skating team, celebrates after Team China won the mixed team relay gold at Beijing 2022 on February 5, 2022. Photo: IC

'Hooray for China's gold' - Kim Sun-tae and Viktor Ahn Hyun-soo

China's short-track speed skating team is no doubt a "gold-getter" in the Beijing Winter Games. Head coach Kim Sun-tae from South Korea and the globally acclaimed South Korea-born Russian skater Viktor Ahn Hyun-soo are two major figures supporting the Chinese team, and they feel proud of its success. 

Kim became Team China's head coach in 2021, but before that he saw Team China's potential as far back as in 2006 when he discovered gold medalists such as Zhou Yang who have contributed greatly to China's short-track speed skating.  

Kim was also a fan of Chinese culture and he speaks fluent Chinese. He once told media that China has given him a "sense of belonging," and he experienced Chinese people's sincerity and enthusiasm that made him give up his high-paid coaching job in Japan. 

Similar to Kim, Ahn, a top speed skater who won big in both Torino 2006 and Sochi 2014, came to help the Chinese team by providing his expertise as a technical coach. His contribution has helped star athletes such as Wu Dajing see enormous progress. Ahn and Wu were once rivals, but are now teammates who skate together on the ice. 

Toby Dawson, Asian coach with legendary childhood memories helping Asians to the top

Toby Dawson, a Korean-American former mogul skier, also became the head coach of Chinese national freestyle skiing team in 2019. He won a bronze medal at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, and also is a featured athlete on the US sports medicine show Athlete 360. 

Dawson's success in freestyle skiing is strongly connected to his childhood experience. He was born in Busan, South Korea as Kim Bong-seok. At the age of 3, he went missing when he was at a crowded market in Busan with his mother, the Guangzhou Daily reported. His father went through many orphanages in the area for days, but his son was nowhere to be found. 

A couple from Vail, Colorado, who were ski instructors, adopted Kim and he was renamed Toby Dawson. He later found his biological parents in South Korea.

Chinese national freestyle skiing team has made great progress under Dawson's coaching. During the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Chinese skier Xu Mengtao won gold medal in the women's aerials on Monday night, and another skier Kong Fanyu advanced to the final and finished sixth. 

Chinese biathlon team coach Ole Einar Bjoerndalen skis in a training session on January 11, 2022 in Ruhpolding, Germany. Photo: VCG

Chinese biathlon team coach Ole Einar Bjoerndalen skis in a training session on January 11, 2022 in Ruhpolding, Germany. Photo: VCG

Ole Einar Bjørndalen, a family effort to Team China's Olympic success

Ole Einar Bjørndalen, a retired Norwegian biathlon star, received the "King of ­Biathlon" title by holding 13 Winter Olympic Games medals before he decided to coach the Chinese biathlon team in September 2019. 

"This [biathlon team] is a young team with ambition and potential. From now on, we will dive into everyday training, sharing our experiences to prepare for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics," Bjørndalen said on social media after joining Team China in 2019. 

He also brought to China his wife Darya Uladzimirauna Domracheva, a Belarusian biathlete who now coaches the women's team in China.  

Bjørndalen's coaching brought new changes to Team China. He adopted advanced Scandinavian training techniques to adapt to Chinese culture, and provided the local team with European training and competition opportunities. 

He encourages Team China to be more diligent even under the impact of ­COVID-19. His dedication has finally paid off in the Beijing 2022 Games, where ­Chinese athlete Cheng Fangming completed on Sunday the men's 12.5 kilometers, setting a new Chinese record time.  

Capelli Dario, China-loving Italian coach, found second home in China

Italian Capelli Dario, 50, is now the head coach of the Chinese Paralympic Alpine ­skiing team. In fact, he created the team after arriving in China in July 2018, and turned his recruits, most of whom ­amateurs, into professionals, Xinhua reported.

Starting skiing at 5 years old, Dario has participated in numerous Alpine ski races as a competitor and won several times on both the national and international stages. 

Having earned an Italian national coaching level-2 certification in 1993, when he was just 23, Dario began coaching para skiing three years later and his achievements as a coach include several gold medals from the Torino 2006 and PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

"The pandemic has affected us. We couldn't go overseas and missed opportunities to compete with other athletes. We don't have time to rest because we don't have time to waste," Dario said.  

"I love China. It's a beautiful country with very nice people. China is my family now. If possible, I can lead them [Chinese athletes] to my hometown Italy for the 2026 Winter Paralympic Games," he noted. 

Peja Lindholm, world champion leading young, energetic curlers

Peja Lindholm was named head coach of the Chinese national curling team on June 15, 2019. The 52-year-old Swede, who helmed the Swedish team until the 2019 World Cup Grand Final, took up the Chinese post in August 2019, Xinhua reported. 

As an athlete, Lindholm won three world championships and was the head coach and sports director of the Swedish national team since 2010.

He has led Sweden to 31 medals in the world arena, including the women's gold medal and men's silver medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics as well as the men's gold medal and women's silver medal at the 2019 World Curling Championships. 

In addition to his achievements, the Chinese national team values Lindholm's academic ability in charge of the Swedish International Curling Academy, said Beijing Youth Daily.

 "The Chinese curling team is composed of young and energetic members, they are competitive. I am actually familiar with them as I have paid close attention to their performance in many international competitions," Lindholm was quoted by Xinhua as saying. 

"I believe the Chinese national curling team will make great progress and become one of the top teams in the world through joint efforts with our coaching staff."