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Youngest Rio Olympic champion left off China team for diving worlds

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Ren Qian, the youngest gold medalist in Rio across all sports at age 15, was left off China’s deep roster for the world diving championships that begin next week in South Korea, according to Chinese media.

Ren became the youngest Olympic diving champion since countrywoman Fu Mingxia in 1992 when she captured the platform in Rio. She also earned world silver in 2015 and bronze in 2017, finishing behind countrywomen at the 2017 Worlds and the biggest event of 2018, the World Cup. She was then not on the team for the Asian Games in August.

Ren, a Sichuan Province native, was a gymnast before switching to diving at age 6 and by her early teens succeeding 2008 and 2012 Olympic platform champion Chen Ruolin as China’s best.

China’s other individual Rio gold medalists are on the reported roster — Chen Aisen, Cao Yuan and Shi Tingmao.

China won five of the eight Olympic events at the last worlds in 2017, its lowest gold-medal percentage at an Olympics or worlds since 2005.

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Shaun White’s old coach heads China snowboarding toward Beijing Olympics

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Bud Keene, who coached Shaun White at three Olympics, now leads Chinese snowboarders en route to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“I signed a contract with China to win a medal in 2022. So, that’s the goal,” Keene said Thursday before a World Cup big air event inside the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, according to Xinhua News Agency.

While Keene helped White to two of his three Olympic halfpipe golds, the Vermont native is in charge of big air and slopestyle teams for China.

The Chinese are best known for their halfpipe riders, including Liu Jiayu, who took silver behind American Chloe Kim in PyeongChang for China’s first Olympic snowboarding medal. Five other Chinese finished in the top 10 in men’s and women’s halfpipe since 2010, but China has yet to enter a rider in an Olympic slopestyle or big air contest.

“We have a mountain to climb,” Keene said, according to Xinhua. “There’s no question about that. But we’re gonna climb it one step once a time.”

Keene and White both said they parted amicably after White’s disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Keene said in 2016 that they accomplished all they could together, and the coach wanted to invest more time in grass-roots snowboarding and instructing. He guided New Zealand freeskiers and snowboarders in PyeongChang, where that nation earned its second and third Winter Olympic medals (in ski halfpipe and snowboard big air).

China, which has rivaled the U.S. in Summer Olympic medals, earned between eight and 11 medals at the last six Winter Olympics, challenging some traditional European powers. More than half of its Winter Games medals came in short track speed skating, including 10 of its 13 golds.

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MORE: Shaun White takes his longest break from snowboarding

Wu Dajing, world’s fastest short track speed skater, lowers his world record

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Wu Dajing was China’s lone gold medalist in PyeongChang, and the short track speed skater is only getting faster as the Beijing Winter Olympic cycle begins.

Wu lowered his world record in the 500m, the equivalent of track and field’s 100m, at a World Cup in Kearns, Utah, on Sunday. He clocked 39.505 seconds at the 2002 Olympic long-track venue, beating the 39.584 he set in the PyeongChang final.

“The ice here is very fast,” the 24-year-old Wu said, according to the International Skating Union. “A year’s training has gone into this world record.”

Wu merits comparisons to Usain Bolt. Not only for dominating his sport’s sprint, but also for his unusual height (5 feet, 11 inches, tall for a short tracker) and the likelihood that he will be a star at an Olympics in China. With his PyeongChang title, Wu also took 500m gold or silver at all four world championships in the last Olympic cycle.

In 2022, Beijing will become the first city to host both editions of the Olympics, 14 years after it held an iconic Summer Games with Bolt’s breakout.

Wu’s time on Sunday is equal to averaging 28.31 miles per hour, nearly five mph faster than Bolt’s average for his 100m world record of 9.58 seconds from 2009.

NBC Olympics analyst Apolo Ohno, an eight-time Olympic short track medalist, raved over Wu in PyeongChang, noting not only his unchallenged speed but also meticulous strategy. Wu became the first man to lead an Olympic 500m final from start to finish since Ohno at Torino 2006.

“It was a symphony of short track 500m specialty,” Ohno said of Wu’s 500m gold in February.

Only American J.R. Celski had broken 40 seconds in the 500m before Wu did it twice in one night in PyeongChang. In two World Cup stops this season, Wu broke 40 seconds in eight of 12 rounds of 500m events.

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