Wang new, improved

Updated: 2013-03-13 02:58

By Lei Lei (China Daily)

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After long absence, skater suddenly winning almost every event she's in.

Wang Meng is back.

Six consecutive 500m titles in the World Cup series and four gold medals at the World Championships have left no doubt China's short-track speed-skating star Wang is back on top of her game after 1 1/2 years away from competition. But the 27-year-old said she still hasn't returned to peak form after the prolonged absence.

"I'm still in the period of recovery, and I'm not as strong as the results would lead you to believe," Wang said after returning from the World Championship meet in Debrecen, Hungary, on Tuesday.

"Because of my age, the recovery has been slow, and since I was away from systematic training for about two years, it's been difficult for me to return to my best form."

As China's most decorated Winter Olympian, Wang — who collected four Olympic gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the Turin and Vancouver Winter Games - made headlines in recent years not with her fame, but violating team rules. She was banned from competition in 2011 following a drunken brawl with a former team manager. But after returning to racing last September, Wang quickly regained her form.

She claimed the 500m titles in all six World Cup series events, and won gold in the 500m 1,000m, all-round and 3,000m relay at the Debrecen World Championships. She even broke the record in the 500m in the semifinals of the World Cup stop in Germany at 42.597 sec.

Wang said the record was unexpected and, now that she's matured, she prefers enjoying her races rather than striving desperately for gold.

"I didn't expect I could set the record at that race," Wang said. "I don't think too much during races right now. Compared with before, I don't think too much about the gold medal. I do want to win, but my coach told me to consider the race as just a game, and that I'm the master of the game. Thinking less puts less pressure on me than before."

Wang's maturation has greatly impressed her predecessor.

"To be honest, it is very difficult to find a talent like Wang," said Yang Yang, who dominated the sport in the 1990s and claimed China's first Winter Olympic gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

"It's not easy for her to regain her form after an almost two-year absence. She came back from the bottom and showed that she has made great efforts. I noticed that Wang is much more mature than she was before. She knows what she should do now , which is great progress. I believe she can still improve," said Yang, who retired after the 2006 Turin Games.

Wang's next goal is her third Winter Olympics, next year in Sochi. She is trying to keep it low key this time as well.

"If I want to have good results, I have to keep challenging myself, breaking through the limitations of my physical conditioning," Wang said. "I don't want to predict the results in Sochi so early. Let me improve one step at a time."

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