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China stumbling on path to Olympic glory at 2022 home games

At least Jeff Pain knows what is expected of him.

Hired by China for his coaching expertise in the winter sport of skeleton, the Olympic silver medalist for Canada in 2006 has four more years to shape his rookie team of Chinese athletes into ice-sliding champions at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

"We've been told it's gold or nothing," Pain says. "The other medals are irrelevant."

Here's the rub: Wanting to win in dangerous, technically complex sports on snow and ice and actually being equipped to beat established winter-sports powers are very different things.

"It's not just about putting on a pair of shoes and being fast,"...