China expects to dominate Doha

(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-28 09:08

In an unprecedented move, China will field more than 400 rookies who have no experience in major international events, but will no doubt grab the most golds and medals at the Doha Asian Games, December 1-15.

"Our goals is to top the medals table in terms of golds and total medals and to ensure that China dominates the Asian Games for the seventh time in a row," said Cai Zhenhua, a senior official of the State General Administration of Sports (SGAS) and deputy chef-de-mission of the 928-strong Chinese Asian Games delegation, which includes 647 athletes.

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But officials are all keeping a low profile and refuse to reveal the specific number of golds Chinese squads are required to claim.

"The Chinese delegation will strive to top the medals table for the seventh time running," said Duan Shijie, also deputy chef-de-mission of the Chinese delegation.

"It is hard to predict how many gold medals our athletes will win at Doha, but we will try our best to make sure we are at the top," adds Xiao Tian, another deputy chef-de-mission of the delegation.

Vice minister of the SGAS Feng Jianzhong also tried to cool down the expectations from reports and Chinese people.

"I hope you will not say 'Chinese athletes must win or have to win.' This time in Doha, we should say: 'We are trying to win and trying to top the medal table.' There are a lot of factors that will effect our performances."

Officials also dismiss reports that the Asian Games serve as a major rehearsal and exercise opportunity for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, saying that China's determination to send a group of youngsters is pushed by hopes of grooming a new generation of medal hopes for the 2008 Olympics.

"Our first goal is to give younger competitors experience, to speed up the training of the younger competitors and to rest top athletes who have had too many competitions and need a break," said Duan.

Among the 647 athletes, 413 have never participated in major international competitions and the average age of whole squad is 23.3.

Several established stars with world and Olympic titles will be staying at home.

Liu Xiang, the Athens Olympic champion who set a new world record in July this year, will lead the 41-member track and field team that will be without 10,000m women's Olympic champion Xing Huina, who is recovering from a knee injury.

In swimming, Athens 100m breaststroke champion Luo Xuejuan was left out of the women's team. Badminton's Athens gold medallist Zhang Jun, women's table tennis world No 1 Zhang Yining and NBA Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming will also miss the tournament.

China seized 150 gold, 84 silver and 74 bronze medals four years ago in Busan to maintain their 20-year winning streak since the 1982 round of the Asian Games in New Delhi, India.

"We hope the Games can put our youngsters to the test and give them a taste of what it will be like in the Olympics," said Duan.

While China look almost certain to win the medal race, South Korea and Japan are expected to compete for the second spot.

South Korea consecutively ranked second in the 1998 Bangkok Games and 2002 Busan Games, while Japan took fifth place in the 2004 Athens Olympics with 16 gold medals, beating South Korea, which came in ninth with nine gold medals.

South Korea, which plan to send 750 athletes to 37 events, aim to garner about 70 to 75 gold medals, according to South Korean officials.

"Our overall objective is to get 75 gold medals to maintain our spot in second place in the medal count," said Chung Hyon-suk, head of the South Korean athletic squad.

Japan, which excel in judo, swimming and track and field, are expected to win 58 to 65 gold medals.

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