by sportswriter He Leijing
BEIJING, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The world's fastest athletes on ice are all set, hoping to shine on the global stage at full speed as the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will get underway on February 4.
A total of 166 star speed skaters around the world are about to compete at the Winter Olympics, with 14 events held at the National Speed Skating Oval, also known as Ice Ribbon in Beijing.
Do not blink, or you will miss them, because speed skating, among the oldest disciplines of the Winter Games, see whoever finishes in the fastest time win, regardless of a variety of races involving a mixture of individual and team events over various distances on the ice rink.
HOME TEAM HOPEFULS
China's best speed skaters are in place to put on a show in front of a home audience, as the squad consisting of six males and eight females has come into being.
Speed skating is one of the disciplines that are expected to boost Team China's medal haul. The skating team returned home from a successful World Cup season, with the national record refreshed four times and multiple skaters achieving personal best times.
Ning Zhongyan claimed two gold and two silver medals over 1,000m and 1,500m at the World Cup, underscoring his status as a leading figure in China's Olympic roster. "I will give it all and try to present the best of myself," said the 23-year-old who will make his first Olympics debut.
Gao Tingyu will also be a medal hopeful for China in the men's 500m as the 25-year-old snatched his sub-34 seconds results in the World Cup series, coming home with one gold and one silver. The PyeongChang bronze medalist is striving for better performances four years on.
On the women's side, Chinese skaters will compete in every individual event and its competitive team sprint roster is hopeful of a podium finish.
ACE ON ICE
The Netherlands has long been the dominant force of the star-studded ice show. Veteran skater Sven Kramer continues to be a competitive contender in the men's field and the nine-time Olympic medalist, who won the 5,000m title for the third straight time at PyeongChang 2018, has come into his fifth consecutive Games looking for more.
Kramer's compatriot, 35-year-old Ireen Wust, has also propelled herself into a legend. The Netherlands' youngest Olympic champion ever has pocketed five gold medals, combining 11 medals split across four Olympics and four separate events, and the queen of the oval will still be looking to add to the tally at her fifth Olympic journey, especially in the 1,500m which she has finished with four consecutive medals.
Erin Jackson of America, currently the No.1 ranked skater in the women's 500m, will get a chance to join hands with her friend Brittany Bowe in Beijing despite a mishap on the ice. Bowe gave up her spot to Jackson who had won four of eight World Cup races but slipped in a recent race and failed to qualify. Jackson and Bowe are likely to be gold medal favorites in the 500m and 1,000m respectively.
Nils van der Poel of Sweden who broke the world record to win the men's 5,000m of World Cup are among the athletes challenging for a podium finish at the Games. Canada's sprinter Laurent Dubreuil will also be dangerous on the list.
Women's star speed skater Miho Takagi will be the captain of Japan's Olympic team, and the three-time Olympic medalist is ready to compete in five events, namely 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m and team pursuit. The all-round skater and Kodaira Nao who triumphed in the 500m at PyeongChang 2018 are looking competitive on the road to the podium this time.