Friday, November 12, 2010

China to leave Asian Games rivals in wake

A child poses in front of the Asian Games mascots in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, November 11, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
A child poses in front of the Asian Games mascots in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, November 11, 2010.
Credit: Reuters/Michael Dalder
GUANGZHOU, China | Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:42am IST
GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - With little doubt that China will top the medal count for an eighth straight Asian Games, the hosts mammoth delegation will compete to surpass their imperious achievements at the 2006 Doha Games.
China amassed a whopping 316 medals in Doha, including 165 golds, to eclipse nearest rivals South Korea by 123 medals as they built confidence ahead of the Beijing 2008 Games.
With an eye on the London 2012 Olympics and home-crowd advantage, the 974-strong red army of Chinese athletes should have little trouble reeling in their Doha count.
Retirements and injuries have robbed the delegation of a number of their brightest Beijing stars, but China will still bring 34 Olympic champions, leaving some pundits to suggest the team could even test their record of 183 gold medals set at their home Beijing Asian Games in 1990.
Officials have publicly brushed off any suggestions that China is chasing a medal target, but have pushed their athletes into 41 sports, with kabbadi the only exception.
"We are using the Asian Games as a preparation for the London Olympics, to discover our new stars, to fight for number one and to fight for the most gold medals," deputy chef de mission Xiao Tian told reporters this week.
China's traditional dominance in table tennis, badminton and diving will inevitably prove a river of gold, although the absence of some of their sporting titans has given other teams hope of upsetting the applecart.
Diving queen Guo Jingjing has been given a leave pass for the Games, leaving Wu Minxia, her partner during successive golds at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics in the three-metre springboard, to lead a younger team.
China's women's table tennis has lost multiple gold medal winner Zhang Yining, and the team were handed a rude shock by Singapore's undefeated Feng Tian Wei and Wang Yuegu at the world championships in Moscow earlier this year.
Revenge will be foremost on the mind of the women while it will be business as usual for China's men, whose lowest ranked player is 20-year-old world number seven Xu Xin.
Beijing Olympic champion Lin Dan will lead China's charge to sweep the badminton golds, and his task of snaring the men's singles title has been helped by an ankle injury to Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei.
He may still have to contend with rival and former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, who got under his skin at Doha in 2006 and beat him in a tense final. Lin's loss denied China a clean sweep of the five golds on offer.
"Our goal is to get more gold medals than at Doha and the team events are the main task," head coach Li Yongbo said.

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