By Sportswriter Cao Jianjie
SAPPORO, Japan, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Lacking an entrenched tradition in winter sports, China is scouting summer sports talent as it gears up for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Chinese sports officials said here on Sunday that they are seeking winter sports talent nationwide, in track and field, Chinese martial arts, roller skating, gymnastics and even basketball.
According to Ren Hongguo, Secretary General of the Chinese delegation to the Sapporo Asian Winter Games, China aims to compete in all seven sports and over 90 percent of 102 medal events at the 2022 Olympics.
To reach that goal, China has built national teams in the sports of bobsled, luge, skeleton, snowboard and ski jumping in recent years, raising the number of national winter sports teams to 22.
"After the Asian Games, we will be searching for talent all over the country," said Ren. "We will be looking beyond those northeastern provinces already known for winter and snow sports in China," Ren added.
"We will also be scouting talent among around 18-year-olds in other regions, and other sports, like athletics," he added.
The 20-strong national skeleton team, selected from 121 applicants over various sports in 2015, includes former basketball players, athletes in track and field and cyclists.
Geng Wenqiang, who made the move to skeleton from athletics in 2015, won a bronze medal in an international skeleton event in Switzerland late that same year, convincing Chinese officials that their decision was right.
Ren provided an example that an athletics sprinter can be turned into a bobsledder.
"In the two-man bobsled, behind the steerer is the pusher, who gives the sled the quickest start as possible. An athletics sprinter, known for power and explosiveness, can do the job," Ren said.
Ren defended China's decision to draw summer athletes to winter sports and said it is not cutting corners, citing a piece of Olympic history where over 90 athletes competed in both the summer and winter Olympics.
American Lauryn Williams, 2012 Summer Olympics gold medalist, won a bobsled silver at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. She was the fifth person to have accomplished that feat.
"She benefited from explosive power as a sprinter," Ren said.