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China’s short track strategy

Posted February. 11, 2022 07:37,   

Updated February. 11, 2022 07:37


There was a good reason why the Chinese short track national team could be so brazen to press ahead with their cheating at the Beijing Olympic games.

So far, Team China have resorted to the strategy of securing the lead in the early phase of the game before tripping and wrestling with their competitors to keep their lead in the end, which earned them two golds in four games. The lack of fairness on the referee’s part certainly played a role to the benefits of Team China.

Before the Beijing Olympics, China completely changed its rules to recruit athletes, tweaking them in favor of strong starters adept at fending off followers. According to the selection rules announced on Dec. 30 last year, the 500 meter, 1,000 meter, and 1,500 meter courses were divided into several stretches in between, and those who passed each stretch quicker were given more points.

It is only commonsensical to give more points to the players who reach the final line first, but under the changed rules, they were forced into a fierce competition in each stretch to get more points. The course of 500 meter, for instance, was divided into four stretches, and whoever passes each stretch first was given 900 points (a total of 3,600 points for the entire course). The 1,000-meter course was split into nine stretches, with 400 points reserved for the winners of each stretch, and the 1,500-meter course was divided into 12, with 300 points for the first finisher of each segment.

Under such criteria, five male and five female skaters were chosen. Some were automatically selected including Ren Ziwei, who finished the race first in men’s 1,000-meter event in the second competition of the World Cup this season and won men’s 1,500-meter game in the third and fourth competitions, and Wu Dajing, who won men’s 500-meter in the fourth competition. The rest of the three went through the screening test to compete in Beijing.

“I think China has selected players who can complement its lack of overtaking skills against Korean competitors. In the men’s 1,000 meter, Ren Ziwei secured the early lead, and Li Wenlong chased them close from right behind to block Hwang Dae-heon,” said a legendary South Korean short tracker. He analyzes that Team China must have calculated the potential home advantage should Hwang decide to overtake Ren Ziwei in-course and inevitably make physical contact with his Chinese competitors.

But in the men’s 1,500-meter event on Wednesday, Ren Ziwei failed to make the final round, with two other Chinese skaters getting eliminated in the quarterfinals. Korean short trackers including Hwang took the more distance outer-course yet managed to overtake their competitors without contact. It will remain to be seen whether China’s short track strategy will work or not on Friday when the game resumes.

Jae-Yeong Yoo elegant@donga.com