HARBIN, Northeast China, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- First-time host China made the history of winning the medal race for the first time as the 24th Winter Universiade concluded here on Saturday.
Liu Peng, director of the General Administration of Sports of China, declared the Games close, before the lowering of the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and the extinguishing of the flame.
Sending most of its top athletes in winter sports to compete with second-string competitors from abroad, China collected 18 golds, 18 silvers and 12 bronzes to edge traditional powerhouse Russia to the second place, bettering its best previous finish of a third at the Tarvisio Universiade in 2003.
As Chinese skaters and skiers enjoyed golden harvest in speed skating, short track, freestyle aerials and figure skating, the most exciting victory came from the Heilongjiang Skating Gymnasium, where the Chinese women beat title favorite Canada in the curling final for their first international team title in winter sports.
The Chinese women's ice hockey team also made historical breakthrough despite a brave 3-1 loss to Canada in the final. The silver medal was their best finish at any international tournament.
Winter Sports powerhouse Russia, who finished at the top of the medal table in four of the last five Winter Universiades, slipped to the second place with 18 golds, 14 silvers and 19 bronzes.
The Russians showed their domination in cross-country and biathlon by winning 16 titles in these two sports, but Anna Sorokina surprisingly surrendered the title to Chinese Song Chaoqing in Saturday's 12.5km mass start biathlon race, demolishing their chance of surpassing China on the medal table on the last day.
South Korea reaped five golds in speed skating and short track each to finish third on the medal table with 12 golds, seven silvers and nine bronzes.
Having invested more than 3 billions RMB (44 million US dollars)in the last four years on the infrastructures and facilities, Harbin received high marks from the FISU for its diligent and efficient organizing work.
"Harbin has the ability to host the Winter Olympic Games," said FISU president George Killian.
However, senior Chinese sports officials seemed to be less optimistic.
"Winter Olympics is quite different from Winter Universiade, Harbin still has a lot of efforts to make," said Xiao Tian, vice chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee. "For example, Yabuli is still incapable of hosting World Cup Alpine events."
Fritz Holzer, honorary member of FISU, said during his inspection of Yabuli ski resort that a better infrastructure needed to be built in the next few years in order to bid for the 2018 or 2022 Winter Olympics.
"To me, the ski resort in Yabuli is good enough for the Universiade ski competitions, but for the Winter Olympics, it needs to be a better infrastructure in the venue," said Holzer, also a member of International Skiing Federation (FIS).
More than 1,600 students from 44 countries and regions, aged between 17 and 28, took part in the 11-day Games where no one was positive in about 160 doping tests conducted, and a total of 20 countries made the medal table, with 15 winning their medal of golden tint.