Chinese national cross-country team manager Zhang Bei hopes their best-ever Winter Games outing will have a “profound impact” on the country’s future in the sport. Though they are still far from podium contention, China’s 10th-placed finish in the women’s 4x5km relay is considered a serious achievement in the discipline which, like most, are dominated by Norway, Sweden and Russia. China are fielding a record 11 athletes across cross-country events at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre this month, and the young team’s progress has been promising. Women’s 7.5km x7.5km skiathlon athletes Li Xin and Chi Chunxue secured the mainland’s best individual finishes so far, 33rd and 34th, while men’s skiers Liu Rongsheng and Shang Jincai broke into the top 50. China’s much-discussed Uygur opening ceremony cauldron-lighters , Dinigeer Yilamujiang, also showed promise in the skiathlon and 10km classic events. Hopes were high for the 20-year-old, who finished second in a sprint series in Beijing last year – the first Chinese cross-country skiing medal in any FIS-sanctioned event. Yilamujiang and men’s skier Wang Qiang later won FIS sprint titles in Shanghai. “The active performance of the Chinese athletes at this year’s Olympics will have a profound impact on the confidence and enthusiasm of the people and the project,” said Zhang, who herself has co-authored papers on the body composition of China’s cross-country acquisitions for the 2022 Games. “China has provided strong support to the sport, not only in nurturing elite athletes to participate in elite international competitions, but also to promote the project among the masses. “Idols like [gold medallist freestyle skier] Eileen Gu Ailing and [Olympic figure skater] Zhu Yi will also encourage young people to pursue their dreams, and will stimulate more young people to become interested in winter sports.” China’s big cross-country push could not have been implemented without the help of Nordic event powerhouses Norway . After winning the bid to host the 2022 Games in 2015, China’s General Administration of Sport begun a nationwide scout for talent, and cast the net wider for international coaches. With underlying diplomatic tensions thawing in 2017, China and Norway signed an agreement to help with China’s Beijing Olympics endeavours, which would allow a dozen of the country’s best athletes to train with elite coaches in Trondheim. All you need to know about skiing, snowboarding at Winter Olympics Hundreds of young Chinese skiers were reportedly sent the following year as respective national Olympic Committees’ partnership bloomed. Norway have won 121 Olympic cross-country skiing medals since it was first contested as a sport at the inaugural 1924 Games – more than 40 ahead of closest rivals Sweden – and boast eight-time men’s Olympic champion Bjorn Daehlie and eight-time women’s champion-turned-coach Marit Bjorgen . The country of 5.4 million also won 39 medals at Pyeongchang 2018, compared to China’s nine. Be they former kayakers, sprinters or long-jumpers, China’s new-era snow-based athletes were divided into groups to train in skiing, endurance and target-shooting, by the likes of Norwegian coach Tor Arne Hetland. With the Chinese Sports Ministry bankrolling virtually everything, former world champion Hetland and fellow Norway Olympic medal-winning coaches “ pretty much had to start from scratch ”. “Besides their outstanding Olympic cross-country ski credentials, they are very friendly, hard-working, and their facilities are very good,” Zhang, a former national team rowing coach at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, said. “Our Norwegian partners’ enthusiasm and dedication to sport snows is very impressive. I am sure snow sports in China will develop well in the next 10 years. “We’ve had a good start, and in the future, there will be even more young people dedicating to cross-country skiing. “We hope that our athletes start to love cross-country skiing through this cooperation, and that each of our athletes enjoy and put on their best performances at the Olympics,” added Zhang, welcoming the Norwegian contingent to train in China’s ever-improving snow sports facilities.” Cross-country skiing has four more events at the Beijing Games: the women’s and men’s team sprint on February 16, and the men’s and women’s 50km mass start on February 19 and 20, respectively.