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Russians see little hope of Olympic rebound
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12:03, August 19, 2007

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· 24th Universiade Bangkok 2007
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The Russians, who suffered a stun at the Athens Olympics in 2004, saw little hope of a rebound in Beijing next year through the performance at the 24th Universiade.

Russia trailed China in the gold medal standings by 29-33 at the 11-day-long Universiade, with a total of 236 golds on offer.

The shooting team made the biggest contribution of 11 gold medals to the Russian Universiade delegation out of 39 shooting golds at stake.

"We sent altogether 30 athletes here, 20 for rifle and pistol and ten for shotgun, half of which are world-class, including World Cup Final gold medalist, World Cup winners, European Champions, World Junior Champions," Oleg Seleznev, a rifle coach of the team told Xinhua.

The squad showed their superiority in the sport by leading China, the other powerhouse by two more golds, but Leonid Ekimov was the only star here. The 19-year-old all-around pistol shooter wrapped up five golds, two silvers and one bronze in all four men's pistol events both team and individual.

However, the sports-majored student, acquiring a second best score of 571 points this season in the qualification round of the men's 50m pistol event, still have to fight for an Olympic berth in the dazzling Russian squad, most of whom were veterans in their thirties or forties and thus were absent at the Universiade.

The harvest at the shooting range in Bangkok doesn't mean the Russian shooters would do better in the newly-built National Shooting Range of China in Beijing, where the shooting competitions of the Olympics 2008 would be held.

The three gold medals at Athens came from Mikhail Nestruev in the men's 50m pistol, Lioubov Galkina in the women's 50m rifle three positions and Alexei Alipov in the men's trap, meeting the pre-event target of the delegation, while China grabbed a team- record of five golds.

It is foreseeable that a Sino-Russia duel will be inevitable at the Beijing's shooting range, while the United States, featuring several rifle and shotgun specialties, who did not show up at Bangkok, Germany, good at rifle and rapid fire pistol, Italy, with a traditional power in shotgun events, and some superiors from Belarus, South Korea, Serbia, Mongolia, Slovakia, Australia and so on would also share the 15-gold cake. Thus it would be extremely hard for the Russian shooters to do better in Beijing.

Athletics was the other gold mine of the Russian Universiade delegation, producing six golds, the most among all teams with the absence of the United States.

Olesya Chumakova, the winner of the women's 1,500-meter race, was the only one of the newly-crowned Russians who had a world ranking of top ten. However, the gold medalist of the Russia's Indoor Championships this year was only the fifth of the event in Russia.

To be fair, the Russians are not strong enough for top positions in the Olympic track events, with most of their hopes on the field ones, led by pole vault "queen" Yelena Isinbayeva.

In the swimming pool, another hot venue in the Olympic Games, Russians could hardly be counted as a strong force, with only the men's 4x100m medley relay and the synchronized swimming ladies bearing the burden of fame.

In the diving events, mainly dominated by China, Gleb Galperin, a 21-year-old veteran, the newly-crowned World Champion of the men 's 10m platform in Melbourne this March, may take an inch in the Chinese territory.

However, the men's and women's 10km marathon swimming events, first introduced into the Olympic program, may be the fresh blood to the Russian team as Vladimir Dyatchin and Larisa Ilchenko claimed the both world titles in Melbourne.

Russia, saying high before the Athens Olympics, was finally driven to the third position in the gold medal standings by the United States and the uprising China, the worst-ever result in their Olympic history, due to a disappointing performance in artistic gymnastics, their traditional seigniory to some extent.

However, there is no evidence that Russia would regain their superiority in Beijing, although the gymnastics authority and the team has changed blood and paid much more attention on the youngsters after the retirements of Svetlana Khorkina and Aleksei Nemov.

The gold medal in the women's floor from Alena Polyan here in Bangkok can hardly be regarded as a hint of rebounding as they failed to take a single gold at the World Championships in 2005 and 2006 while China became the strongest power by taking eight golds out of 14 in the 2006 edition of the worlds in Denmark.

Wrestling, not featured at the Universiade, produced five gold medals for the Russian team in Athens, but can hardly add more to their tally next year in Beijing.

Source: Xinhua

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