PyeongChang 2018: Celebrity comes naturally for Haitao Wang

Historic gold medal brings Chinese wheelchair curler into the spotlight 04 Apr 2018
a male curler bites his gold medal

Haitao Wang is getting used to the attention that a Paralympic gold medal brings

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“There were countless greetings and congratulations from everyone and so many interviews, from Pyeongchang to Beijing, to my home county. I felt like a celebrity.”

China’s Haitao Wang has been bombarded with attention since returning from the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

He might have to get used to it for the next four years.

“There were countless greetings and congratulations from everyone and so many interviews, from Pyeongchang to Beijing, to my home county,” Wang said. “I felt like a celebrity.”

“My family and friends stay with me and congratulated me, we had so many nice dinners. We took photos with my gold medal. Media from national to county TV or news station interview[ed] me.”

The 28-year-old led his team to history when China defeated Norway in the wheelchair curling finals. The golden victory marked the nation’s first Paralympic Winter Games medal.

“I felt my dream realised, I honoured my country and had the national anthem played at Paralympic Games,” said Wang, describing his immediate emotions after China’s historic win.

He hopes those feelings will return on home sheets at Beijing 2022.

“I would love to fight for my country at home,” Wang said.

The gold medal team consisted of Wang as fourth, third Jianxin Chen, second Wei Liu, lead Meng Wang, and supported by alternate Qiang Zhang and coach Qingshuang Yue.

China made its Paralympic debut in wheelchair curling at Sochi 2014, where Wang also played as the team skip. A 5-4 loss to eventual Sochi champions Canada in the semi-finals positioned China in the bronze medal game against Great Britain, which they then lost.

Heading into PyeongChang, China was ranked third but were among the sleeper teams in the Games after failing to reach both World Championship A-Pool podiums in 2017 and 2016. Their last best finish was silver in the 2015 Worlds.

“The key is a united team, a calm mind and to concentrate our attention to the process instead the result,” he said about their win over gold medal favourites and reigning 2017 world champions Norway. “The coaches always lead us to analysis our faults after the game no matter we won or lost, we all looking for getting stronger each time.”

Wang – who contracted polio when he was young – says he will take a short vacation and start training with his provisional team in the next month. He is also a student at Harbin Institute of Physical Education and will continue his studies.

The season is not over yet for each player on the national team. They still have local competitions left before the bigger national game, in which the Chinese national team will be selected ahead of the 2019 World Wheelchair Curling Championship from 2-8 March in Stirling, Scotland.

“The gold medal lays a good foundation for China, because of the historic achievement,” Wang said. “More attention will be addressed to Paralympic sports, and with the attention the work will be getting better and better.”

The official PyeongChang 2018 website can be found here.