Liu Shaoang (center) celebrates with coach Zhang Jing after winning gold at the ISU World Cup on December 10, 2023 in Beijing. Photo: VCG
China's short track speed skater Liu Shaoang led the Chinese team to one gold, four silver and five bronze medals at the ISU World Cup short track speed skating event in Beijing, as three major winter sports events hit North China over the weekend.
Shaoang skated to a 1:23.696 in the men's 1,000 meters to win the first gold medal for China at the Capital Indoor Stadium before helping China secure a bronze medal in the men's 5,000 meters relay.
Shaoang, who joined the national team in April along with his brother Liu Shaolin from Hungary, said he had done his best.
"We had not competed for over a year, and so we were very lucky to have the chance to compete on the home rink," Shaoang said, referring to the ISU restrictions for the transfer from Hungary to China after the Beijing Olympics.
An error by Shaoang's brother Shaolin in the last lap of the 5,000 meters relay cost China another gold medal hope, but the 28-year-old underlined that he will "learn from mistakes."
"There were mistakes, but we do learn a lot through competitions," Shaolin told reporters after the race. "Not winning the gold medal does not mean we do not have the capability to do so."
Female skater Gong Li, 23, contributed to China's medal haul with a silver medal in the women's 1,500 meters and a bronze medal in 1,000 meters.
"They mean a lot to me," Gong told reporters after the race. "But there's still room for improvement, I have to admit. I will do my best in the upcoming races."
Chinese veteran skater Fan Kexin's return to competition saw her win two silver medals in the women's 500 meters and 2,000 meters mixed relay on Saturday, before grabbing another bronze medal in the 500 meters encore on Sunday.
Before receiving the medal on the ice rink, Fan bowed down and kissed the ice surface yet again, echoing her own gesture at the Beijing Olympics when she won a gold in the same relay discipline.
"I just love this ice so much," Fan, a three-time Olympian, told reporters after Saturday's races at the ISU short track World Cup event in Beijing. "As long as I have the chance to compete, I will do my best."
Short track events in China have become increasingly popular as they often attract countless fans.
Several high-profile people with links to the short track team also appeared in the World Cup event, including China's Olympic short track champion Wang Meng and Kim Sun-tae, the man at the helm of Team China at the 2022 Winter Olympics, where China won two Olympic gold medals amid a limited number of fans watching the race in person due to COVID-19 prevention measures.
The much anticipated Lin Xiaojun, whose fans occupied most of the available seats in the stadium, failed to make an impact in the competition. He injured his right leg during the men's 500 meters on Sunday.
"It is not a serious injury but it will take time to see how deep it goes," Lin, who transferred to China from South Korea, told reporters through an interpreter. "If it is not a big issue, I will compete in the next World Cup."
The ISU World Cup will continue in Seoul, South Korea, from December 16 to 17.
The 27-year-old also called his fans to support the national team rather than focus on himself, after recent online bullying from his fans targeted his national teammates.
The weekend also saw the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final be held at the National Indoor Stadium, where a sensational quadruple Axel jump was executed in the men's short program by 19-year-old US skater Ilia Malinin, who later won the men's singles with a personal-best 314.66 points to prevail over two-time world champion Shoma Uno of Japan by 17.32 points.
The legacy of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics was not only celebrated by the venues hosting the competitions, as podium finishers in the short track and figure skating events were gifted a Loong Dwen Dwen as a souvenir, a Chinese dragon version of the Winter Olympics mascot Bing Dwen Dwen.
Also during the weekend, Winter Olympics champion Gu Ailing, also known as Eileen Gu, won the FIS women's freeski halfpipe World Cup held at Genting Snow Park in Chongli, Beijing's neighboring Hebei Province on Saturday. It marked her first competition in China since the 2022 Olympics.
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