Could China’s Short Track Speed Skaters soon be dazzling fans with versions of Victor An’s fabled ‘outside pass’? It is a strong possibility with the Olympic king set to coach the nation’s best through to Beijing 2022.
Victor An (RUS) at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2017©International Skating Union (ISU)
Speculation that An was about to join the list of superstar coaches hoping to help propel China’s winter athletes to glory at their home Olympic Games has been mounting since March, when the six-time gold medalist was spotted competing in Beijing in a Team China internal event.
China lies joint-second with Canada in Short Track Speed Skating’s all-time Olympic medal table, with 33, compared with rivals the Republic of Korea’s whopping 48. And while China left the PyeongChang 2018 Games with a very respectable tally of one gold and two silvers, the fact that the current Men’s and Ladies’ squads mustered 10 golds between them during last season’s ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating campaign (compared with 24 by Rep. Korea) appears to have prompted the approach to An.
Team China, Team Korea, Team Canada at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (KAZ) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
He undoubtedly has the pedigree to help. The man known for his thrilling ability to time and again blitz his opponents on the outside in the final stages of a race has an unmatched record. Racing for his native Republic of Korea he grabbed 1000m, 1500m and 5000m Relay gold at the Turin 2006 Olympic Games. Eight years later, this time representing Russia, he repeated the hat-trick in the 500m, 1000m and 5000m Relay. Add on six overall ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships titles and it is clear why hie is one of the most revered names in Short Track Speed Skating.
Victor An (RUS) and Jordan Malone (USA) at the Olympic Winter Games 2014©AFP
The skater An beat into second place in the 500m at Sochi 2014, Wu Dajing, is one of those who will no doubt be looking to benefit from the record-setter’s expertise. Wu won one ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 500m last season and is still to hit his very top form since becoming China’s first male Olympic Short Track Speed Skating champion by claiming 500m gold at PyeongChang 2018.
Victor An (RUS) at the Olympic Winter Games 2014©AFP
With Li Jinyu, China’s only other individual medal winner in PyeongChang, not currently competing, An has his work cut out ensuring his new charges challenge for the podium come Beijing 2022. But he does have good company within China’s coaching staff to help him do it.
Victor An (RUS) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2017©International Skating Union (ISU)
Compatriot Kim Sun-tae steered the Republic of Korea to three gold, one silver and two bronze medals at Korea’s home Olympic Games and the lead coach will attempt to do the same for China. The renowned Korean’s physical trainer Kim Chang Back is on board as well, alongside Derrick Campbell, the Nagano 1998 Men’s Relay Olympic champion who led his native Canada to seven Olympic medals during his 12 years in charge of the Men’s team.
Derrick Campbell (CAN) at the Olympic Winter Games 1994©Getty Images
From Norway’s eight-time Olympic biathlon champion Ole Einar Bjoerndalen to the USA’s double Speed Skating gold medalist Shani Davis, China has not been afraid to seek out the very best in their quest to top the podium at Beijing 2022. In Victor An, the Short Track Speed Skaters have certainly got that.
Shani Davis (USA) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating (NED) 2016©International Skating Union (ISU)