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Beijing 2022: What are China’s medal chances at this year’s games?

Although they have not traditionally been one of the strongest participants in the Winter Olympics, you should not count out the hosts when it comes to predicting what the medal tally will look like at the end of this year’s games.

Although they are not expected to reach the same highs they did when they hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics — which resulted in them chalking up a staggering 48 golds, with a total tally of 100 medals — the level of investment the Chinese authorities have poured into athlete development in the run-up to the 2022 games means the sporting world could be in for a surprise this year.

Out of all the times they have participated in the games, 2010 in Vancouver was their best showing so far. This led to them earning five gold medals with a total tally of 11 overall.

However, based on the target the Chinese authorities set some years back when first organizing the games to get 300m citizens taking part in winter sports, China could be due for a record-breaking performance this year. To reach this 300m target, resources were poured into athlete development, including building infrastructure, hiring foreign coaches and operating a talent identification and development program.

In this regard, China is utilizing a strategy successfully deployed in other sports. For example, China recently drafted in the decorated British Olympic Champion Sir Steve Redgrave to bring the Chinese team to international standards. This led to them winning three medals at the last games. China has used a similar strategy in the run-up to this year’s competitions, drafting in the likes of Jeff Pain to coach their skeleton team.

However, we must also add the fact that China has altered their approach to athlete development somewhat in recent years. There has been a marked shift away from the ‘win at all costs’ mentality, which resulted in Chinese athletes being put under considerable stress.

Additionally, since the turnaround time between winning the bid to host the games has been relatively short, the Chinese authorities have had to invest in older rather than younger athletes. This has even meant helping athletes from other sports transition into winter sports — such as helping distance runners switch to cross-counter skiing.

In terms of how success at this year’s games will be measured, while there will be an understandable amount of attention paid to the medal count, the level of obsession might not match other years. There is a strong sense that the Chinese authorities are focusing less on the number of medals they can win in individual events to measure their success.

This is evident in the fact that China has already proudly proclaimed that they have far exceeded their goal of getting 300m people into winter sports. Additionally, they look set to meet their goal of having a Chinese athlete qualify for every event. However, to what extent this will translate into medal success remains to be seen.

Kirk is a lifelong follower of all motorsports, particularly Formula 1, Nascar and WRC. When not found at the side of the circuit, eyes stinging from the burnt rubber, he also covers tennis, eSports and other categories for us.

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