Can China Be Competitive In Olympic Hockey
As China prepares to host the Winter Olympics in 2022 they are working hard to ramp up their level of competitiveness in sports that aren t traditionally strong for Chinese athletes. One of the benefits of hosting is the opportunity to compete in most if not all events, but the risk is not being competitive and representing your country positively. A good example of this is ice hockey. The world championships for men has the top 16 countries competing annually but the fact is only 7 nations have won a medal at the IIHF Men s Hockey World Championships in the past 70 years. There is a big gap in quality after the top 8 – 10 countries, and that gap is huge when comparing to teams outside the top 20. Currently the Chinese men s ice hockey team ranks about 33rd in the world, but the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) decided to award China with automatic entry into the 2022 men s and women s Olympic ice hockey competitions. This has put pressure on China to raise their game to avoid embarrassment.
The government of China has been working very hard to grow the game of hockey leading up to the 2022 Olympics. A big initiative has been to install synthetic ice surfaces in schools to make it more accessible. Synthetic Ice Solutions of Brampton, Ontario has signed a contract to supply synthetic ice panels that easily assemble into ice rinks that can be used in any temperature and without the need for water or power. As a result, the Chinese Ice Hockey Association has stated (as reported by the publication China Daily ) that the number of registered youth players has increased from 2,000 to 12,000 from 2015 to 2018. While these numbers pale in comparison to participation levels in the big hockey nations, it at least is building a pool of talent to try to build a respectable team.
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