Olympic champion Zhou not out yet for Shanghai worlds

Updated: 2012-01-12 11:40


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CHANGCHUN, Northeast China - Chinese Olympian Zhou Yang has not yet been excluded from the squad for March's world short track speedskating championships though she sat out the national winter games citing unfitness.

"Zhou is a great skater with some great results from the previous world championships and Winter Olympic Games," said Zhao Yinggang, director of China's winter sports administrative center, on Wednesday.

"She needs some time to find back her normal level of competition, and we shall just be patient and confident to wait and see," he added.

The twice Olympic gold medalist Zhou, 20, has kept no show for all five-day competitions of short track speedskating at the ongoing 12th national winter games without giving a previous notice.

"The Changchun short track team decided to rest Zhou in individual events," explained Zhao Xiaolu, deputy chef-de-mission of the Changchun delegation on Monday, the third day of the Jan 7-11 short track competitions.

"She is quite down now, far below her normal level of competition, since she's been out of regular training for almost six months," he said.

According to Zhao, Zhou Yang, being among the five-member roster of Changchun team as a substitution, had her chance to run the relay and team events which require four skaters per team, only if there's any other skater got sick or injured.

The 1,500m specialist and Olympic winner of women's 3,000m relay, however, was not sent off the bench for individual, relay and team events.

She's even questioned of her work ethics as rumors were around, saying that Zhou, a close friend to Wang Meng, was quietly demonstrating her dissatisfaction on Wang Meng's expulsion by refusing to take races at the winter games.

"I don't think there's such kind of thing like boycott," said Zhao Yinggang. "That's why rumors are called rumors."

Last August, Wang Meng, the most decorated winter sports athlete of the country, was expelled from the Chinese national team after a drunken brawl with national team manager Wang Chunlu. She has been banned from any competitions without clear timetable for coming back.

Zhou Yang, who snatched the women's 1,500m and 3,000m relay golds alongside Wang at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, once declared that she'd quit the national team if Wang Meng was not called back, but was later persuaded to stay by Wang and other officials.

She represented Changchun in December's national short track speedskating championships, without any good results from all the events she participated in and even failing to make it to the 1,500m final.

"Zhou received some regular training with the Jilin provincial team after the national championships last month, but she apparently needs more time to recover both physically and mentally," said Zhao Xiaolu.

"We consulted with the Changchun team's coaching staff and decided not to send Zhou Yang on the ice here," he said. "Considering her situation now, it's better for Zhou to rest rather than get frustrated in the rink."

"Changchun team's consideration is quite understandable," echoed Zhao Yinggang. "Zhou has long been this low since she's back from Vancouver," he added.

"It's normal for an athlete to have highes and lows. And what we can do is to help her better compare herself for competitions and sooner come back for the rink."

The short track worlds will be held in Shanghai on March 9-11, and Zhou's participation is still on hang. "World championships is not like world cups. Every athlete will have to take part in all individual events, namely the 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m, as well as to prepare for a relay race," said Zhao Yinggang.

"Zhou Yang has to be 100 percent fit and impressive to earn a berth to the worlds from the national team," he added. "Nothing is fixed. What I can tell now is that Zhou's not out of the race yet."