BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese short track speed skating team aims to reprove themselves with Wu Dajing back to the upcoming World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria on Friday after the lackluster season, while the united "European team" threatened to break South Korean's dominance at home in the three days of world-class skating.
"This season is the first step heading to 2022 Beijing Olympics. The one who laughs last laughs best. Chinese team should have faith, perseverance and willpower," said China's head coach Li Yan, who is in low profile and reluctant to mention any specific goals in the world major event.
However, the participant roster released by the legendary Chinese coach earlier this week, which includes Olympic gold medalist Wu Dajing, world champion Fan Kexin and other finest senior Chinese skaters, shows her ambitions to end the final event of the season with strong comeback performance.
In all five World Cup competitions during the season, China's national team, sent many youngsters to compete in the top level match, has only gained four golds in Calgary and Salt Lake city, three of which comes from Wu Dajing in men's 500 meters, but the China's skate sensation didn't compete in the last three World Cup circuits.
It is the first time for China to field a full strength team since 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, the world record holder Wu, who missed last year's Montreal World Championships, will still be the favorite to top the podium in 500 meters. His biggest opponent is Lim Hyo Jun from South Korea, who secures the overall No. 1 slot by the end of the season. Moreover, Chinese skaters are also promising contenders in men's 5,000m relay, women's 500 meters and mixed relays.
Simultaneously, whether the united "European team" could challenge the dominating South Korea on the rink is another eye-catching hotspot of the short track speed skating worlds.
"Joint training is a very effective way for the European skating powerhouses to improve, it is a benign competition for us," said Zhang Jing, head coach of Hungary. By the end of this season's World Cup competitions, the skaters from European teams such as Hungary, Russia and Netherlands has ranked world No. 1 in five of nine events, whereas South Korean Skaters are top in the other four events.
"Albeit South Korean team has changed their coaches this season, their skaters remain in a super high level in regard of technical skills," Zhang Jing told Xinhua.
Zhang's team ranks first in men's relay, but the absence of their Olympic champion Liu Shaoang due to hand fracture is going to make their winning road more complicated. "There is no doubt that Liu's injury will affect our strength in relays, but the team is proving year by year. We don't worry about it," Zhang added.
In addition, Dutch skater Suzanne Schulting, who has been dominant in ladies' 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters this season, will face challenges from South korea's Kim Ji Yoo and Choi Min Jeong in 1,500m race and Sofia Prosvirnova of Russia in 1,000 meters. Russia will be most pundit's tip to win the women's 3,000m relay to compete with South Korea.