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Head coach upbeat on China's new short track speed skating team

BEIJING, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — After China’s first competition since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, short track speed skating head coach Zhang Jing, who formerly headed up Hungary’s national team, praised the team’s performance and expressed confident in her athletes in the new Olympic cycle.

China’s short track speed skating team made their season debut at the ISU World Cup in Montreal last weekend, with Zhang Chutong finishing fifth in the women’s 1000 meters.

Zhang had selected young skaters for the national team and decided to use a series of international competitions to accumulate experience for them.

“The whole team is lacking international competition experience,” said Zhang, who led Hungary to the country’s first Olympic short track gold in the men’s 5,000m relay at PyeongChang 2018. “We are aiming at training young skaters this season, especially their capacity in international competitions.”

In Montreal, 19-year-old Zhang Chutong was China’s only woman skater who had taken part in the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. In other women’s events, Chinese skaters all made the semifinals and took part in final B, while China’s men’s skaters entered final B in most events. China also made the semifinal in the mixed relay.

“Our expectation for the World Cup was some skaters making the semifinals, avoiding mistakes and improving their confrontation ability,” said Zhang. “Our young skaters were aggressive, and I am very happy to see that. I also saw their problems.”

“Although our skaters were aggressive, they were not familiar with their opponents, so sometimes they lost the rhythm in the race,” she added.

The new national team was selected from this summer’s training camp and only three of them had previous Olympic experience. Zhang Chutong and Li Wenlong are 19 and 21 years of age respectively, while 2018 Olympic 1,500m champion Lin Xiaojun had his last competition three years ago.

In Zhang’s opinion, strong teams like the Netherlands and South Korea all kept at a very high level and paid great attention to preparations for the new Olympic cycle.

“I hope everyone in my team is fully trained this season and can learn from the world’s top skaters,” said Zhang.

Lin injured his waist in the mixed relay semifinal on Saturday and had to withdraw from the competition and China ranked second in the final B of the men’s 5000m relay. According to Zhang, Lin was sent to hospital in Montreal.

“The doctor said Lin will feel less pain after a couple of days. Whether he will compete in Salt Lake City depends on his condition,” she said.

The World Cup in Montreal was the first stop of the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup series, and it continues from November 4 to 6 in Salt Lake City, the United States.

“I believe we will become stronger at international competitions,” said Zhang. “It will be difficult, but we will try our best.”

Zhang represented China at the 1994 Winter Olympics. After her retirement, Zhang took the reins at Hungary’s men’s short track speed skating team in 2012. At Beijing 2022, Hungary won one gold and two bronze medals under Zhang’s tutelage.

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