Who will light the cauldron at the Winter Olympics?

Follow our latest coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics . It’s one of the hot topics at the start of the Games, and one of the best-kept...


Follow our latest coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

It’s one of the hot topics at the start of the Games, and one of the best-kept secrets: who will light the Olympic cauldron in the stadium during the opening ceremony?

The New York Times has a pretty good record recently to predict who will get the honor, so let’s try again.

As a rule, the lighters in the Olympic cauldron are legendary athletes from the host country. At the Vancouver Games in 2010, for example, who else to light the cauldron than Wayne Gretzky? Four years ago, the South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim was chosen for the Pyeongchang Games.

It is also possible that an active athlete will be chosen: The tennis star Naomi Osaka was selected for the Tokyo Games last year, for example.

China has a relatively short history of success in winter game, simplifying our search somewhat. The country only won its first winter medals in 1992 and its first gold in 2002.

With history in mind, here are some top contenders:

seven. Chen Lu. Well known in China and abroad for her fine performances in figure skating in 1994 and 1998, Chen has the disadvantage of winning only two bronze medals and no gold.

6. Han Xiaopeng. Its gold medal in ski jumping in 2006 is China’s only gold medal in a snow sport.

5. Eileen Gu. An active athlete is less likely this year, as China does not have a single big-name performer at these Games. Gu, who could win a gold medal in freestyle skiing, may seem like the best candidate, but she was born and raised in the United States. Although she has chosen to represent China at the international level, her background may work against her if officials are looking for local athletes.

4. Wang Meng. The short track speed skater has four gold medals and six medals overall, two records for China. That would seem to propel her to the top of the list. But her choice is not a slam dunk: she was ousted as head coach of the Chinese speed skating team in 2020 after less than a year of work, which could make her a tricky choice. In 2011, she was expelled from the skating team after a physical fight with team officials. That kind of turbulent history might hurt her with image-conscious selectors.

3. Yang Yang (S). Ten of China’s 13 gold medals at the Winter Olympics have come in short track speed skating. Yang won five medals but no gold. His unconventional name was chosen because there was another top speed skater at the time named Yang Yang. Which brings us to…

2. Yang Yang (A). With two gold medals and five medals overall, Yang Yang (A) has even more cauldron-lighting credentials than his namesake. But despite China’s great success in short track over the years, we are going to take a different direction for our final choice.

1. Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo. The 2010 pairs champions are the only Chinese gold medalists in figure skating, perhaps the most popular sport at the Games worldwide. The husband and wife team would have the added benefit of having a man and a woman light the cauldron together.

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