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China eyes gold medal on first day
By Yu Yilei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-12 05:51

Chinese sports supremos said the Chinese athletes will definitely strike gold on the first day of competitions at the Athens Olympics, which officially opens tomorrow.

There will five events where the Chinese athletes might win a gold medal on Saturday, the first day of competitions.

"I cannot say where the first gold medal will come from and how many Chinese athletes can win on the first day," said Xiao Tian, deputy chef-de-mission at the delegation's first press conference since he arrived here on Sunday.

"But I am sure that we can win gold on the first day."

The Chinese athletes are possible winners in five events including women's air rifle, men's air pistol, women's 48-kilo weightlifting, women's 3m springboard synchronized diving and men's 10m platform synchronized diving.

Among them, Zhao Yinghui and Du Li, the current joint world record holders are very likely to bring the first gold home from the women's air rifle which is also the first gold up for grabs at the Athens Games.

But the Chinese officials said the women's sharpshooters are far less likely prospects for a gold.

"It really depends on their own performances and their rivals' performance," said Xiao. "What I can say that we just do our job and hope for the best."

Four years ago in Sydney, despite being heavily favoured in the event, Zhao bowed to pressure and finished empty-handed. Zhao's defeat was followed by some other minor upsets for Chinese athletes who failed to win a gold on the opening day before the first came on the second day from women's shooter Tao Luna in the women's air pistol event.

"Now the delegation attaches great importance to the first day of competition and expects we can have an opening day triumph to boost our morale," Xiao said.

But a cautious Xu Haifeng, the head coach of the Chinese shooting team, refused to comment on who will win the first gold especially with Zhao's painful experience in Sydney.

"I do not want to talk about who can win it," said Xu who hopes the team can win three golds.

"I do not want to single out the first day or the first event and I think the first two days are important for us because we are competing in four events and we all have gold medal chances.

"If we do a good job in the first two days, it will be fine."

However, it is almost a certainty that Chinese will get a gold medal on the first day because of China's superpower status in women's weightlifting and diving.

World record holder Li Zhuo is seen an absolute certainty for gold in the women's 48-kilo event as are world champions Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing, and Tian Liang and Yang Jinghui in the springboard and the platform synchronized diving during the evening competition.

China is setting a goal of winning no less than 20 gold medals and keeping its third position in the medal standings as it did four years ago in Sydney.

The officials are confident of reaching that goal.

"I think the pattern of the sporting powers in the world have not changed much in the past four years," said Li Furong, also deputy chef-de-mission of the delegation.

"The US and Russian teams are strong as usual, followed by China, Germany, France and Australia.

"So I think it is realistic for us to win at least 20 gold medals," he said.

So far, 285 Chinese athletes out of a total of 407 from more than 20 sports have arrived in Athens.

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