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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 10:14, May 09, 2007
Canoeing team on a roll ahead of Beijing Olympics
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A surprise gold medal at the Athens Olympics has lifted China's canoeing team into the spotlight, but the squad is not going to rely on that sort of luck at the Beijing Games.

With an all-around improvement since teaming up with legendary German coach Josef Capousek in 2005, officials believe the team is capable of winning at least two gold medals in 2008.

"We don't expect an accidental gold as luck did play a big role in our victory in Athens three years ago. Our target is two gold medals at our home Games," national team manager Tian Zhong told Nanjing Modern Express. "We have signed a contract with the State General Administration of Sports and garanteed we will have gold medals in both men's and women's events.

"It's obviously tough and it's like a foreign player winning a table tennis gold medal from China, but we are confident and committed."

Canoeing, once an unpopular sport in China, was transformed almost overnight after Chinese canoeists made a historic breakthrough in Athens helped in part by a favorable breeze. Led by the Canadian coach Marek Ploch, Meng Guanliang and Yang Wenjun won the country's first gold medal in the men's C2 500m event, while the women's team reached the finals of the three events they took part in.

The gold medal raised national awareness of the sport and also attracted Capousek, who helped Germany win 17 Olympic golds, eight silvers and four bronzes in his 13-year career as the head coach.

At the Athens Games, he guided the German team to four gold and three silver medals. In addition to this, his tally of 67 golds, 42 silvers and 47 bronzes in the world championships shows how key his appointment could be.

His impact was instant, as the team become a regular gold winner in the World Cup series, which was previously dominated by countries like Hungary and Germany.

Led by veteran Yang, China won five golds, three silvers and three bronzes at the World Cup in Zagreb, Croatia, while they swept the Asian Games last December pocketing six gold medals.

"I am encouraged to see how much we've improved over the past two years," said Capousek, 60.

"We have the potential to win gold medals in a number of events, not only two, so the two-gold task is not an impossible mission for us."

Source: China Daily

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