Back in May 17 last year, in Copenhagen, Denmark, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) granted the Chinese women and men’s hockey teams automatic qualification in the 2022 Winter Olympics. This is yet the second time that IIHF provided green light to the hosting country after the Korean ice hockey team in PyeongChang 2018.
According to the official website of IIHF, Chinese men’s ice hockey team is currently ranked 33rd worldwide and the women’s ice hockey team is ranked 20th. Back in history, the women’s team was ranked among the top. The team was placed fourth in the first Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament in Nagano 1998. It also reached fourth place in 1994 and 1997 top-level IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. However, they didn’t get into the latest two winter Olympics in Sochi and PyeongChang.
It has been over half a year since the Chinese ice hockey teams were guaranteed a spot at the 2022 Winter Games. Different approaches have been used to improve the comprehensive capabilities of the teams, such as setting up national league matches and inviting Chinese players in overseas leagues to come back home. Different from Korean teams that directly recruit Canadian players, Chinese teams put more effort in searching and cultivating elites among overseas Chinese players.
“I know one thing about Chinese people is that when you are determined to reach a certain goal, you would spare no effort to achieve it with every possible manpower and resources,” said Rene Fasel, president of the IIHF, in an interview with China Daily, China’s state media.
“The Chinese men’s team might be no match compared with world’s top six teams like US, Canada, Czech Republic and Switzerland. But through hard work, Chinese team can be competitive with teams with rankings from 9 to 12.”
“It normally takes 10 to 15 years to cultivate excellent ice hockey players. However under the current situations, China only has four years, which makes it a very big challenge.” He said.
Starting from northern Chinese cities like Harbin, the Canadian ice sport is gradually gaining popularity nationwide. With the Winter Olympics coming, training young players remains a challenging yet emergent task. In June last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin watched the Sino-Russian friendly youth match of hockey in Tianjin. Ice hockey clubs such as Kunlun Red Star, which is a member of the Kontinental Hockey League(KHL), have boosted ice hockey exchanges between the two countries as well as the development of Chinese ice hockey.
Featured photo credit to SCMP