By sportswriter Xu Zheng
BEIJING, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- With less than two weeks to go before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in the city of PyeongChang, South Korea, the Chinese delegation chose to keep a low profile.
The Chinese delegeation was set up on Wednesday.
"Beijing and Zhangjiakou will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and under normal circumstances, the Chinese team would be expecting a big improvement in PyeongChang," said Sun Yuanfu, deputy director of the Winter Sports Administration Center of the General Administration of Sport of China, "but I don't think this situation will play out."
The 2018 Winter Olympics, which will open on February 9, feature 15 winter disciplines. China's prediction foresees medals being potentially won in short track skating, figure skating and freestyle aerials skiing, with China also competitive in snowboarding and speed skating.
Chinese short track speed skaters, who captured six gold medals at last two Winter Olympics, are believed to be strong medal contenders in PyeongChang.
Skater Wu Dajing won the men's 500m twice in his four appearances in the 2017-2018 ISU World Cup series, and Han Tianyu will try to prove himself in the men's 1,500m this time after claiming a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Olympic gold medalist Zhou Yang will lead the Chinese women's team to fight for gold in the women's 500m. Former world record holder Fan Kexin is also a medal contender in the event.
In figure skating, Sui Wenjing/Han Cong, who captured the gold medal at last year's World Championships and finished runners-up at this season's World Grand Prix Finals, are considered the odds-on favorite to win the pair's contest, but they withdrew from the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships due to minor injuries just before the Olympics. The 20-year-old rising star Jin Boyang, bronze medalist of the 2017 World Championships, is also expected to touch a men's singles medal.
Xu Mengtao, runner-up in the women's freestyle skiing aerial at the Sochi Olympics, says she is looking forward to the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics. She claimed the title in the final stage of the World Cup series this season at Lake Placid, United States. Qi Guangpu and Jia Zongyang will vie for the men's medal.
Some observers believe that Chinese snowboard will be a breakthrough sport for the country in PyeongChang, as Liu Jiayu and Zhang Yiwei claimed titles in the World Cup series this season. China will also pursue medals in speed skating, as China's first-ever Olympic speed skating gold medalist Zhang Hong is enlisted in the delegation and Gao Tingyu, who took home the men's 500m title in the 2017 Asian Winter Games, will lead the men's team.
However, Sun says the low-key profile before the PyeongChang Olympics is for good reason: China's winter sporting efforts have not developed as fast as estimated.
"It is true that we are good at short track speed skating, but we should remember that the host of this year's Winter Olympics are also very strong in this sport. There are still some very good skaters from Europe and America, thus the competition will be very fierce in PyeongChang and we have to fight really hard for every single medal," Sun said.
China aims to encourage a staggering 300 million people to take part in winter sports and take a big step forward in this area. These efforts were increased exponentially after Beijing's successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
"We are aiming to take part in every discipline of the 2022 Winter Olympics, and most of our national teams have been established in the past three years," said Sun, "but it is hard for China to reach the achievement level in three years which other countries spent 50 years getting to, especially at the highest levels.
"So We need to be fully prepared for the challenge at PyeongChang. If we are lucky, we can get some gold medals. If not, we may get none. We have to work for the best and be prepared for the worst," Sun said.