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China’s poor Olympic performance angers fans

The country is 16th in medal standings with 1 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze
Feb 26,2018
Chinese short-track speed skaters show disappointment at their disqualification at the women’s 3,000-meter final race at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangwon on Feb. 20, while the Korean short-track team cheers for their gold medal after a moment of suspense as referees checked for penalties. [YONHAP]
China saw disappointing results in short-track speed skating at the PyeongChang Olympics.

The country was relying on its five-time world champion, Fan Kexin, who swept the World Cups in the women’s 500 meters and 3,000 meters over the past five years. Given its improving performance in short track in the past two Winter Olympics and its promising medal contenders, the country had high expectations for the sport in the 2018 Winter Games.

But out of the eight short-track events it participated in, it only received three medals.

China experienced several upsetting moments throughout short-track races at PyeongChang as it claimed that the referees were turning a blind eye to Korean players and unfairly penalizing Chinese athletes.

Its disqualification at the women’s 3,000-meter race on Feb. 20 sparked widespread outrage among people from the country.

Though the team came in second, it was disqualified for impeding Korean short tracker Choi Min-jeong. The event recalled for many a similar situation at the 2006 Turin Olympics when China reached the finish line second in the women’s 3,000 meters but was disqualified for impeding.

China filed a protest about the disqualification, but was dismissed for failing to meet the 30-minute deadline after the competition, according to Xinhua News agency. The team was also dismissed in 2006 after it filed a protest.

“I think there was no problem with what we did,” said Chinese short tracker Zhou Yang. “Other than we think it’s not fair, there’s really nothing else we can say about [the penalty].”

Incensed by the results, Chinese fans criticized the International Skating Union (ISU) for its seemingly biased penalties.

“If it was a Korean athlete,” wrote one social media user, “she wouldn’t have gotten penalized.”

With mounting criticism, the ISU last Thursday released images on its website that were reviewed by the referees that resulted in China’s penalties, and explained that the Chinese skater, Fan, changed lanes from the outside to the inside, impeding Korean skater, Choi.

Still, Chinese fans’ anger did not subside.

“You shameless people don’t have any class,” wrote one user on Naver. “Having this year’s Winter Olympics in your place is such an insult to the Games.”

The possibility of leaving without a gold was very real for China, until Wu Dajing finally won gold for his country at the men’s 500-meter race last Thursday, also setting a world record. With the addition of a silver medal in the men’s 5,000 meters the same night, China gathered three medals from short track.

Still, it was a disappointing result compared to the six it won at the Sochi Olympics.

With hopes to redeem itself at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Beijing is already budgeting for the international event.

China promised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that it would encourage 300 million people in its nation to participate in winter sports when it was bidding to be the host city in 2015.

Last year, China said it would expand its winter sports market from 390 billion yuan ($61.5 billion) to 600 billion yuan by 2020, and raise it even higher to 1 trillion yuan by 2025. It also stated its aim to have 1,000 ski venues and 800 ice rinks by 2025.

“Chinese citizens have seen China’s advancement through the 2008 Beijing [Summer Games],” said a member of the Beijing Organizing Committee. “That’s why a majority of the Chinese people are giving a positive response for the 2022 Winter Olympics.”

At PyeongChang, China won nine medals - one gold, six silver, two bronze - placing it 16th on the medal table. It participated in 12 sports categories and sent 82 athletes. It was also the first year the nation participated in bobsled, skeleton, and freestyle skiing, but failed to medal in any of these sports.

“At this Olympics, many athletes in their teens and early 20s participated to focus on gaining experience,” said a member of the Shanghai sports bureau. “In four years at the Beijing Olympics, we will be able to get more medals from these athletes.”

Beijing will be the first city in Olympic history to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics.

BY PARK SO-YOUNG, LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]