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UPDATED: 20:44, August 12, 2004
Yao bets his beard on China's top eight finish
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NBA star center Yao Ming bet his beard on China's top eight finish at the upcoming Athens Olympic Games.

"I will not shave for half a year if we can not finish top eight at Athens," Yao told Xinhua on Thursday after arriving at the Athens airport.

Ancient Chinese warriors used to save beard for a period of time to show their determination to win in battles, Yao has imitated them several times in the past when he played in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league and the Asian Championship.

"Anyway, hopes are only hopes, the most important thing is to do our best at the Games," Yao added.

Del Harris, the first foreign head coach for the Chinese men's basketball team, declined to predict the team's finish at Athens.

"We will just try to win every game," Harris said.

The Chinese team, whose best finish at the Olympics was an eighth, had been preparing the Olympics in Lithuania.

China will play Spain on Sunday in their first match at the Athens Games.

Source: Xinhua

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