As the Winter Olympics heat up in PyeongChang (the opening ceremony is slated for 9pm tonight), Beijing’s sports fans will have plenty of their own rising stars to cheer on. Sure, the Middle Kingdom has long had an edge when it comes to figure skating, but that’s by no means the only sport that China is poised to succeed at this go around. Below, some of Beijing’s top sports reporters and industry insiders like Justin Downes (a Beijing based Canadian who has worked for years on developing China’s skiing scene) and Domo Yu (a skiing consultant from China who learned her trade on Alaska’s slopes) list their picks for China’s gold medal prospects.
World champion Chinese snowboarder Liu Jiayu
Justin Downes, president of Axis Leisure Management
I certainly would keep my eye on the snowboard half-pipe and freestyle aerials teams. These athletes typically come from a gymnastics background and have recently performed well on the World Cup circuit. For snowboarding, my pick would be Liu Jiayu and Cai Xuetong for female, and Zhang Yiwei for male. For freeski female I’d say Xu Mengtao, and for male, you should be sure to watch out for Qi Guangpu.
Domo Yu, CMO and co-founder of x2Rider Sports consulting
My favorite is the aerials team: Xu Mengtao, Jia Zongyang, and Qi Guangpu. But I also like half-pipe snowboarders like Liu Jiayu. Those athletes proved themselves at recent World Cup level events. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them stand on the podium in PyeongChang.
Spencer Musick, sports editor at Xinhua News Agency
Probably the best medal hopes are short-track speed skating, but China has strong competition from South Korea and the US there. Wu Dajing would be one to watch for sure for speed skating, seeing as he got silver in Sochi.
Chen Xiangfeng, deputy director of sports department at China Daily
For me, China’s best gold medal prospect is figure skating world champion duo Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. They are so talented. I can’t wait to watch it. I think figure skating is so popular in China because it’s such a beautiful sport, and of course, it’s where China has long had its strongest winter Olympic showings.
Mike Fox, sports reporter at CGTN
The best chance China’s got at medals is figure skating. Sui Wanjing and Han Song won the world championship last year, so a lot of hope is on them. But then there’s freestyle skiing. There’s a woman named Li Nina who got silver in Vancouver in 2010, and she’s got a very good shot at getting a medal. I’d also pick Qi Guangpu, who is quite young and upcoming and has been doing really well in the regular season. Then there’s Han Tianyu, who got a silver in Sochi in the 1500m short track for speed skating. He’ll be there again at PyeongChang, and I bet he’ll do very well.
Juha Tuominen, executive director at Sinoreach
I have seen a few of Wu Dajing’s competitions. He is super strong, especially at the 500m. There is no one who can beat him if he has a good day. Another example of a remarkable Chinese athlete that is hard not to be a fan of is Liu Jiayu. She’s No. 2 in the world ranking of snowboarding freestyle right now. I have actually met her once and her personality, attitude and look on life are all awesome.