Reuters - Wed, 27 Jan 08:57:00 2010
Han Xiaopeng, China's first male Winter Olympic champion, will defend his freestyle skiing aerials title at the Vancouver Games after being awarded a place in his country's team.
Han, a former acrobat who had never seen snow before he was enlisted into China's winter sports team, has struggled with injury for the last year and fallen behind four younger compatriots in the rankings.
"Han is guaranteed a place in the Winter Olympics if nothing unexpected happens," Ren Hongguo, deputy director of China's Winter Sports Administration, told the China Sports Daily.
"Currently he ranks fifth in the team, but considering his training and major events experiences, he is capable and hopefully will appear in the final squad."
The 27-year-old, whose Turin triumph was the first in a snow sport for his country, will lead a strong Chinese challenge in the event at the February 12-28 Games.
China, which won two gold, four silver and five bronze medals in Italy four years ago, is expecting to send its largest Winter Olympic delegation to Vancouver.