China – C+
You may find this shocking, but as a perennial nobody in cross-country skiing, the Chinese really pulled up their socks this year. Sure, they sucked on the World Cup, scoring a whole 20 points, good enough for 22nd on the Nations Cup rankings, but they have been getting better. For the women, Hongxue Li bagged a solid 12 points, all in a 10 km classic in Otepaa. Not fantastic, but when you only start three World Cups a year and you get points in one, it’s not terrible. But the real shock here was one Qinghai Sun (proud owner of 4 WC points), who qualified for the men’s sprint at the Olympics.
I know, it’s one course, roughly 3 and a half minutes, but the fact that he was in good enough shape to be competitive pretty much earns the Chinese the C. Otherwise, they would be an automatic D- with Mexico, Iran, and every other country that thinks Canada has 10 months of winter and 2 months of shitty skiing.
Watch out for: Qinghai Sun, obviously. I cannot guarantee he will start on the World Cup next year, and you really shouldn’t pick him up in your Fantasy League unless it’s 100 people deep, but the 22 year-old knocked out a 35th and a 27th in the two World Cup starts he had this year in addition to his 12th place qualifying at the Olympics. Not too shabby, coming from a country that is better known for human rights abuses and 10 year-old gymnastics girls.