Team China will be itching for silverware at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics after collecting a single gold medal at the previous Pyeongchang 2018 Games – its lowest in the past five cycles. With the mainland’s National Bureau of Statistics this month announcing it realised its overarching goal of “getting 300 million people into winter sports” ahead of its home Games, there is something of a point to prove. The bureau reported nearly 350 million Chinese took part in ice or snow sports since winning the Beijing Games bid in 2015, while experts predict a post-Games boom in Chinese skiing and surrounding industries. Though most stop short of forecasting a better outing than it’s all-time best five winter golds at the 2010 Vancouver Games, China boasts a jaw-droppingly talented delegation of seasoned veterans, teenage phenoms and point-proving Olympic returnees. Here’s who to look out for, according to China-based market research firm Daxue Consulting. Eileen Gu Ailing – Freestyle skiing US-born Gu has been shredding it up in competition since opting to compete for her mother’s birthplace of China in 2019 and is considered a triple medal threat in the half-pipe, slopestyle and big air events. There is a reason the 18-year-old two-time Youth Olympic Games champion is perennially rumoured to be China’s flag-bearer for the Games. Still a semi-professional athlete in 2021, Gu won two golds and a bronze at the renowned Winter X Games, the first Chinese competitor to win gold in the event’s history . She repeated the feat at the 2021 FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championships, becoming the first and only Chinese freeskier to win multiple golds . To end the year, Gu also became the first women’s skier to land a double cork 1440 in training, suggesting there are a couple of tricks up her sleeve for Beijing. Slope domination aside, Stanford University student-to-be Gu’s long-term goal is to inspire and empower a new generation of Chinese women’s skiers, and act as a cultural bridge between China and the US. Xu Mengtao – Freestyle skiing Xu has long been putting China on the winter sports map. She is considered one of the most decorated athletes in her discipline, winning a whopping 26 World Cup gold medals to date. The 31-year-old Jilin native already has a 2014 Sochi Olympics silver medal to her name, while a fall in her second attempt at the 2018 Games forced a disappointing ninth-place finish. However, recent form suggests she is on a trajectory to do one better eight years later, in what will be her fourth Olympics. “Untouchable” Xu and men’s teammate Sun Jiaxu made a statement this month after impressive wins at the FIS Freestyle Ski Aerials World Cup in Canada – her second individual win from five individual aerial events the season, putting her atop this season’s points list. Aside from her World Cup medal cabinet, Xu has won one gold, three silvers and three bronzes at previous world championships. Her positive outlook and smile-heavy appearance has earned her an unofficial title as Chinese fan favourite. Jia Zongyang – Freestyle skiing Fellow Liaoning Province-hailing aerial threat Jia is also set for his fourth Winter Games outing and has a point to prove. The 30-year-old of won a bronze at Sochi 2014, then a memorable silver at Pyeongchang 2018, just 0.46 points off Ukraine’s gold medallist. Then then-world No 2 had called his highest score the “perfect jump” but has since identified work-ons as he eyes gold in Beijing. It would be a fairy tale setting to cap an Olympic career that started with a sixth-place ski in Vancouver 2010. Tenacious Jia had ended 2021 strong with first- and second-place finishes in the team and individual aerial, respectively, at World Cup events in Finland. He did so despite a reported fracture in his lower leg, not to mention the total 22 steel nails in his legs from injuries over the years. But the former Asian Games gold medallist’s last outings in North America this month have seen him slip to eighth and ninth. Perhaps a post-injury, pre-Games precaution. Ren Ziwei – Short-track speedskating Harbin-born Ren has impressed since entering the national team as world youth championship gold- and bronze-medallist 17-year-old. Now 24, the 2018 Pyeongchang Games 5000m relay silver medallist is entering his prime. “Little Flying Elephant”, adoring fans have named him for his scintillating speed on the ice, is a former Asian Winter Games champion and three-time world champion silver medallist, but is finally ready to step out of the relay team’s shadow and make a name in the single’s categories. He secured his 1,500m personal best and three gold medals in the World Cup events last year, and told the International Skating Union the same month that his goal was to “win as many medals as possible at Beijing 2022”. Ren also won one World Cup gold and three silvers in Japan the previous month despite clocking slower times than his teammates leading into the event. His surprising but timely form may push him to atop the Beijing podium. Wu Dajing – Short-track speedskating China’s only gold medallist at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games, Wu looks in peak shape to defend his 500m title. The 27-year-old from Heilongjiang won gold at the Dordrecht World Cup in after struggling in the earlier Olympic qualifying series. The 500m world record-holder is extremely popular on social media, where he reflects on the “ups and downs” in a decade-long career in which he “rose from obscurity to atop the Olympic podium”. Either boosted or threatened by younger teammate Ren’s impressive year-end medal tally, Wu is finally hitting form to lead the short-track delegation Beijing after a stop-start World Cup campaign. The likes of Sun Long and 17-year-olds Li Wenlong and Zhang Tianyi have no better person to look up to as China aim for another short-track hail. 10 of China’s 13 Winter Olympic golds are from its short-track team. Su Yiming – Snowboarding At just 17, Su is already touted as a big air and slopestyle medal favourite for Beijing. He is the first and only Chinese snowboarder to win a big air World Cup title after doing so in Steamboat, Colorado this year – despite it being his first finals appearance. While most put his emergence down to raw talent, Su has already been in the national team’s professional athletes set-up for three years, and has been snowboarding since the age of four. He made a name after winning first- and second-place at an FIS event in Pyeongchang in 2019 Having had the Olympic dream for years, Su appears to have perfected the basics and is breaking into new ground. In December, he became the first rider to land 1800s two ways in an FIS competition . The next month, he was the first from China to complete the notoriously tricky Cab 1800 in training in his Jilin Province. With his first major title already in the bag, and a huge following having already made a name as a child actor, Su’s potential is endless. Sui Wenjing and Han Cong – Pairs figure skating Two-time world champions and 2018 Winter Games silver medallists Sui, 26, and Han, 29, have been impressing for 15 years and have been serial gold medal winners since their junior days. The six-time Four Continents champions won at the Asian Open – a 2022 Winter Games test event – and the Skate Canada International last October, and continued their form into the Grand Prix series until the pandemic halted competitions. Be it to Hans Zimmer’s Mission Impossible 2 in the short programme or Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water in the free skate, Sui and Han are headed straight for podium contention in Beijing. That it might one of the Harbin pair’s final seasons together may spur on a legendary performance. A medal at home would also cap months of spontaneous competition location changes and quarantine restrictions. Geng Wenqiang – Skeleton Competing in his second Winter Olympics, and forever known as the country’s first skeleton Olympian, Geng is another medal contender after winning China’s first IBSF Skeleton World Cup gold medal in history. The 26-year-old from Inner Mongolia immediately thanked his team for helping him to the event last November, which saw a three-way first-placed finish. He won China’s first World Cup podium place in 2020. In just four years of the sport, former long-jumper Geng is now known as an Olympic medal contender. Even more astonishing is only now has he started to feel confident in his own potential. Geng has been training at home in Yanqing to avoid the pandemic, and is near the country’s newly constructed “Flying Snow Dragon” National Sliding Centre. Ning Zhongyan – Speedskating The 22-year-old from Mudanjiang is a former world championship silver-medallist and is breaking his personal sprint records right on time. Ning won his first 1,000m World Cup gold last December after skating to 1,500m gold in Norway the previous month, sealing three series gold medals and breaking his own Chinese record. He is both the national 1,000m and 1,500m record-holder, and has set all his short-track personal bests within the past six months. While he goes into his first Games in unbelievable form, Ning is under some pressure to perform, and said it was extremely important to win a medal. Gao Tingyu – Speedskating A fellow national team stand-out from Heilongjiang, Gao is a Pyeongchang 2018 bronze medallist, the first Chinese athlete to win an Olympic speedskating medal. The 24-year-old will lead the team four years on, with the likes of Ning and others seeing him as the short-track role model, the way he did veteran Zhang Hong. Though he has struggled to find a string of races at the last World Cup series, Gao returned with his first gold and a silver. New team head coach Li Yan, who won China’s first short-track speedskating medal in 1992, is satisfied that Gao is a medal hope for the home Games. Gao, a 2017 Asian Winter Games gold medallist, sealed his personal 500m best in Urumqi last year and has long said his aim is to medal in Beijing.