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China to leave Asian Games rivals in wake

Last updated on: November 12, 2010 14:46 IST

Image: A woman walks past an installation depicting sporting events at the Athletic stadium for the Asian Games in Guangzhou
Photographs: 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.

'Asian Games is a preparation for the London Olympics'

Image: Participants perform near the torch for the Asian Games during a rehearsal for its opening ceremony

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.

'Our goal is to get more gold medals than at Doha'

Image: Lin Dan

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.

Psychology may also play a huge part in the rehabilitation of China's fallen track and field pin-up boy Liu Xiang, who has struggled with fitness and form since limping out of Beijing's "Bird's Nest" before defending his 110 metres hurdles title.

Having held the world record and Olympic and world titles, Liu now has only his Asian title to defend, but will find that no easy feat with compatriot Shi Dongpeng keen to repeat his upset of his higher-profile challenger at a Shanghai meeting earlier this year.

While also destined to clinch medals in weightlifting, wrestling, their native martial art of wushu and a raft of other categories, most Chinese fans will be glued to their sets to follow the fortunes of their men's basketball team.

The team's prospects have been hit by the absence of NBA players Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, but the team have enough firepower to comfortably dispose of group rivals South Korea, Jordan and Uzbekistan.

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