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China wins first cross-country skiing gold in 10 years


20 Feb 2017
Sapporo, Japan, February 20, 2017:An ambitious plan to turn China into a global force in cross-country skiing is already starting to pay off after Chinese won its first gold medal in a decade at the 8th Asian Winter Games on Monday. Veteran cross-country skier Man Dandan ended her country’s 10-year drought in the sport when she won the final of the women’s 1.4 kilometre individual sprint classic at the Shirahatayama Stadium, crossing the line in a time of three minutes 57.92 seconds.

“I was very confident of winning,” she said. “I have been training really hard and I knew if I did my best I could win.”Man’s win was an early sign of China’s progress in the gruelling nordic sport since Mikko Virtanen took over as national head coach last year. Already a two-time Olympian, the 27-year-old has been on the Chinese national team for 10 years but had never won a major international title before Monday’s breakthrough.

After cruising through the first three rounds, Man gave her three opponents in the final no chance as she charged straight to the lead and built up a huge advantage on the uphill climb before cruising to victory.
I am so pleased for her because she’s a super talented sprint skier,” Virtanen said.

“We have worked really hard on her endurance because to win the gold medal you have to ski four rounds and that’s been her biggest problem before, to maintain the speed for all four rounds. “So we have worked on her endurance and tactics to conserve her energy as much as possible until the final then just give it everything she has.”

Yelena Kolomina finished second to collect the silver medal while Australia’s Casey Wright came third but was ineligible for a medal as athletes from Oceania are competing as guests so the bronze went to fourth-placed Ju Hye-ri of South Korea. Wright knew before the competition started that she was not allowed to collect a medal but said she was thrilled just to have the chance to test herself against Asia’s best.

“I came here to race and that’s what I did. A shiny thing at the end is just an added bonus but I don’t need that for me,” she said. “It’s more about the self satisfaction of doing well and knowing that I skied my best throughout the day so that’s what I take home. “I’m kind of in new territory, just kind of testing the waters and seeing where that’s going to take me. So it’s totally a confidence boost and I’m just really stoked.”
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