PARK CITY, Utah — Geng Wenqiang is, without question, the best skeleton racer China has ever produced.
Then again, he’s also the first.
Geng finished seventh out of a field of 31 in his first World Cup race last weekend in Lake Placid, New York, and knows he’ll be getting plenty of attention when the circuit continues in Park City on Saturday.
“I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself,” Geng said in an interview with the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, which was transcribed into English when posted Thursday night. “I think everyone in China now has high expectations of me. I expect a lot of myself too, but all I can do is be myself and try to be relaxed when I slide.”
Geng could be a contender at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February. China’s bigger hope is that Geng will be among their medal contenders when Beijing plays host to the Winter Games in 2022. The Chinese have never been a major player in the sliding sports, which have traditionally been dominated by European and North American countries.
The Chinese hired Olympic medalist Jeff Pain of Canada in 2015 as the program’s first coach and asked him to start what essentially would be a seven-year plan to get a team ready for those Beijing Games. Geng has proven to be a quick study.
“Seventh place in Lake Placid was a big surprise for me and made me very happy,” Geng said. “For the next race, I will try to do my very best.”