Chinese short trackers score big at Winter Youth Olympics
Published: Jan 21, 2024 10:18 PM

Chinese short track speed skating team members compete in a training session in Beijing on December 4, 2023. Photo: VCG

Chinese short track speed skating team members compete in a training session in Beijing on December 4, 2023. Photo: VCG

The Chinese team has demonstrated its squad depth at the Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympics in South Korea, as they concluded the weekend with three gold medals.

Female skaters Li Jinzi and Yang Jingru repeated their feats on January 21 in the girls' 1,000 meters, after Yang led a one-two finish in the 1,500 meters on Saturday in spectacular fashion. Male skater Zhang Xinzhe also won the 1,000 meters on Sunday. 

The female pairs' tactics on Saturday were hotly discussed on the Chinese social media throughout the weekend.

Yang skated to lap the entire field in the early phase of the final - often a self-destructive move in distance races - but then lurked at the tail of the pack, a move that left the other competitors seemingly unaware that they were actually lagging behind. 

When the referee sounded the bell to notify Yang it was her final lap, the other skaters sped up to cross the "finish" line - but they were still one lap behind. 

Yang's teammate Li then continued her pace to finish the race in the second place. The pair high-fived each other after Li crossed the line. 

Yang finished in 2 minutes and 33.148 seconds, followed by teammate Li in 2:41.543. Japan's Nonomi Inoue took the bronze medal.

"I achieved my goal. Actually, I wanted to win the gold medal beforehand, and I am very happy that I got it," said 17-year-old Yang, as her gold medal marks China's first gold medal at the Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics. 

"It was the first time I'd ever tried that," she said. 

"But it was my strategy, and nobody knew what to do. I think it confused people. It worked."

Male skater Zhang, adding up to his silver medal in the boys' 1,500 meters, skated to a 1:26.257 to win the gold medal in the boys' 1,000 meters.

"The results have demonstrated China's squad depth in short track," Beijing-based short track commentator Wang Qiao told the Global Times. 

"But it should also be noted that they still lack experience in international competitions as Zhang's result in the boys' 1,000 meters showed."

Short track is considered the top sport in China's winter sports medal haul as in this sport China has won 12 gold medals in senior races in the Olympics.

The Chinese delegation is composed of 99 athletes, of whom 56 athletes will compete in 12 sub-events and 50 sub-events in all seven major events. 

The average age of the athletes is 16.85 years old, while the youngest is girls' 3-on-3 ice hockey player Xin Yufei at 14. Eligible athletes for the Youth Olympics are aged from 14 to 18. 

China's youth squad in short track speed skating and other events such as freestyle skiing women's halfpipe, skeleton, and 3-on-3 ice hockey have demonstrated competitiveness in international competitions. 

The Gangwon Winter Youth Olympic Games is the first time that China has formed a team to participate in an International multi-sport winter games event since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. 

This is also the third consecutive time that an international multi-sport winter games event has been held in Asia, following the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

A total of 1,802 athletes aged 14 to 18 from 78 nations and regions are competing in the four cities of Gangneung, Pyeongchang, Jeongseon and Hoengseong until February 1.

The Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics features seven sports, 15 disciplines and 81 events.