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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 08:23, April 10, 2006
Best-ever shows bolster Olympic chances
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China is sending a warning to the swimming world that its swimmers might give a stunning show at the Beijing 2008 Games after their best-ever performances at the World Short-course Championships.

With three gold medals including a landmark gold from men's swimmer Wu Peng last night, China ended the tournament with five gold medals, one silver and six bronzes. The previous best came from the 2002 Moscow event where China won three gold medals.

"This is a beautiful show," said Zhang Yadong, who took the helm as the head coach of the Chinese squad after the 2005 Montreal World Championships.

"Two of my pre-game goals have been met - getting experiences and testing new stars. It does not really matter how much gold medals we won but seeing a steady improvement in the team."

There are plenty reasons for Zhang, the man with the mission to head the squad to win three golds in 2008, to be happy. The successful Shanghai trip took the squad out of the shadow of its embarrassing no-medal result at the 2005 Worlds.

While the world is closely watching every move of China's camp, which is in high gear for the 2008 Games, the overall growth shown in Shanghai is what Zhang wants most.

"It is never right to count on one single swimmer," said Zhang, who guided Luo Xuejuan to the team's only gold medal at 2004 Athens Games.

"What we need is team work and overall growth in different events so that we can do better in 2008."

This time, Luo, who skipped the tournament due to poor form, is not alone. Veteran Qi Hui rose to become a triple winner of the biennial tournament yesterday thanks to her versatility on both breaststroke and individual medley.

Comeback Qi

Qi said she hopes to erase her painful Olympic memory at the 2004 Games with a shining performance in 2008.

"It would be great if I can turn one of the three golds here into an Olympic gold in 2008," she said.

The swimmer, dubbed as one-half of China's "breaststroke twin" along with Luo, hit an untimely low at the 2004 Athens Games.

She was disqualified from 100m breaststroke final, a far cry from Luo's inspiring gold-winning show. On her speciality 200m breaststroke in which she once set the world record in 2002, she finished a disappointing sixth place and ended her Athens sojourn empty-handed.

"The year of 2004 is quite painful to me," said Qi. "I could only pick up myself again at the National Games last year."

Qi, already falling on big occasions before, appeared to be unusually confident throughout the race.

"That's what I am trying to bring to the team," said a proud Zhang. "I was trying to influence them with my confidence."

A similar confidence was showed among most of the Chinese swimmers here, including another winner Yang Yu, arguably the best freestyle swimmer in the squad, though lacking in international honours.

The men's side also walked out of a mental deadlock by winning a gold and a bronze each while most of the Chinese newcomers swam their best times in Shanghai.

"I think we are on the right track," Zhang added.

While many people hailed the new achievement that was seen as a breakthrough, Zhang played down the significance of the team's five-gold result.

"The tournament is not of the world's highest level," he said.

China set its target at winning three gold medals before the tournament.

Zhang said he is delighted that high morale was created among a united team that triggered the stunning performance in the final day.

Source: China Daily

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