Never ending love for winter sports both on and off the field: Chinese short-track gold medalist Wu Dajing
How a champion was born
Published: Feb 09, 2023 07:28 PM
Wu Dajing celebrates after winning the men's 500-meter short-track speed skating A final at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. File photo: VCG

Wu Dajing celebrates after winning the men's 500-meter short-track speed skating A final at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. File photo: VCG

China's short-track star skater and Olympic champion Wu Dajing has traveled nearly 1,000 kilometers in one day to celebrate the first anniversary of the grand opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

On the morning of February 4, Wu received the award of "Excellent Athlete" at the conference held in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province on building a province with a strong focus on winter sport and tourism; in the evening, he rushed back to Beijing to attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the opening of the 2022 Games.

"It has always been every athlete's dream to compete in the Olympics Games, and I feel very fortunate to have competed in three Winter Olympic Games and to have won the gold medal in the homeland last year," Wu told the Global Times in an exclusive interview, noting that he is proud to represent the Chinese national team to win the first gold medal for China at the Beijing Winter Olympics, an unparalleled sports feast. 

"But it is far from over for me," Wu said.

Starting to practice short-track speed skating at the age of 10, Wu has written a wonderful chapter for winter sports in China with hard work and persistence. While off the court, Wu shows his multi-faceted life and his love for ice and snow sports on different stages.

Never stop fighting

On February 5, 2022, the first competition day of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Wu led the mixed team relay in short-track speed skating to win China's first gold medal of the Games. Wu thus became the first Chinese male athlete to win gold at two consecutive Winter Olympic Games.

Looking back on the year after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Wu feels that time has flies, but he firmly told the Global Times that his passion for the Winter Olympics and short-track speed skating has not diminished at all. 

Wu said he has been on track for his training in the past year, actively preparing for 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics. Even though he has won gold medals in all international events in short-track speed skating, he always takes the Olympic motto of pursuing faster, higher, stronger - together for the glory of China as his eternal goal.

"The achievements we have made come from the support of our country, which has provided us with such good training conditions so that we can pursue our dreams without distractions," he said.

At present, as the backbone of Chinese short-track speed skating national team, Wu hopes to do a good job in the team to connect the past with the future, and pass on the indomitable fighting spirit of the old generation of athletes.

"I expect the younger team members to perform better, accumulate more competition experience, be more confident and more flexible in the field, and create new achievements for our country," Wu said.

Growing to be a champion

In 2002, 8-year-old Wu saw China winning the first gold medal in Winter Olympics on TV. He was touched by the scene and an idea of racing for the nation began to grow in his heart.

Born in Jiamusi, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Wu started to skate from a very early age. 

The training environment was harsh when he was young. He sometimes had to train under the frozen environment of -20 C or -30 C. Moreover, since there were not enough venues for skating at that time, sometimes he had to start training at 4 am on ice.

In 2007, by chance, he was selected by the coach of the Jiangsu team, about 2,000 kilometers south of his hometown. He took a train for more than 30 hours to Jiangsu alone, and has since become a professional athlete.

In 2013, he began to shine in the 500m event of short-track speed skating. He won his first Olympic medal - a silver - in 2014 during the Sochi Games.

He became the first Chinese male skater to win an Olympic gold medal in short track following his victory in the 500m event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Four years later, on February 5, 2022, he won the 2000m mixed relay with teammates for China at Beijing's Capital Indoor Stadium.

In total, in the three winter Olympics he has participated in, Wu has won five medals, including two golden, two silver and one bronze.

In the past two decades, Wu has witnessed the rapid development of winter sports in China. He noticed that people from all around China started enjoying ice and snow, and skating rinks appeared here and there in cities.

"The conditions of training when I was young were poor, but my parents tried to provide me with the best," Wu recalled.

After he became successful, Wu wanted to help other aspiring young athletes by providing them with better training conditions in order to follow their dreams. In 2019, he built a skating rink in his hometown Jiamusi.

"Whenever I return home, I skate there for a while. Looking at the children also enjoying skating there makes me truly happy," he said. "I wish that in the future, more and more children will fall in love with winter sports."

Shouldering multiple tasks

In the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, a portrait of Monkey King was painted on Wu's helmet.

Wu said he loves Monkey King's "undefeatable" capabilities and the spirit to fight against enemies without ever giving up.

Moreover, like the Monkey King, Wu now is applying his abilities in many different roles along with being the captain of China's short-track national team and the idol for countless young skaters.

"For athletes, the journey to the Winter Olympic Games will definitely have an ending one day; but as a sportsman, there is no end to the yearning for sportsmanship. As an ice and snow sportsman, I hope to promote ice and snow sports and make more Chinese people aware of the beauty of ice and snow sports," he said.

In October 2022, he proudly became a delegate of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. "This is a more significant and heavier task for me," he said.
Wu also participated in a series of variety shows in 2022 and gained many viewers' affection.

"Through these programs, I want to share the real life of the athletes with people to let more of them know about us and snow and ice sports development in China," Wu said.

"As an athlete, I will continue to work hard. Meanwhile, I will also make efforts to promote winter sports and the spirit of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games," Wu noted.