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(China Sports) Chinese women's quad cruise to history
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08:54, August 18, 2008

Chinese women's quad cruised to history as they won China's first Olympic rowing gold medal on Sunday.

Still lagging behind after 1,500 meters, the Chinese crew picked up their stroke rate in the last 250 meters, overtaking the British boat, to secure the much expected gold, posting a time of six minutes and 16.06 seconds.

"We have made a breakthrough in the rowing history of China," said Jin Ziwei.

This is surely a breakthrough for China. Since 1984 when the Chinese rowing made its Olympic debut, the gold medal has long been yearned.

"This is a yield of generations of Chinese rowing people. We have been longing for the gold for so many years and now the dream has been realized by the women's quad," said Wei Di, director of China's water sports governing body.

"What a relief. We thought we may end falling short of any gold medal but things finally turned around," Wei said.

According to Wei, China has actually five to six events to contend for a gold or at least a medal.

However, before the finals, Chinese men's lightweight four and men's eight failed to enter the final. And in the first day of finals, China settled for poor fourth finishes in women's single sculls and women's double sculls.

A silver in women's pair is far from good for the Chinese rowing in contrast to China's gold medal haul at the Beijing Olympics.

On Sunday, the second day of finals, China finished two fifth places respectively in women's and men's lightweight double sculls, seemingly dashing China's gold winning hopes.

"Yesterday we did feel a bit pressured but our coach didn't talk to us about it. So we decided to turn pressure into motivation and show the world what we trained to do," said Jin.

The 23-year-old Jin from Liaoning Province of northern China was echoed by Xi Aihua, who said: "We focused on what each person can do individually, and got the best from ourselves."

"Everyone was focusing on what they can do. As long as we could row like we've been trained we knew we could have a good result,"added Zhang Yangyang, who became part of the crew only about two months ago.

"We had only one goal, which was to win a gold medal. We had a faith, which was to perform to our best because we are a concerted team," Zhang added.

"We finally chose Zhang rather than Feng Guixin due to Zhang's daring spirit,"said Zhou Qinian, head coach of sculling group of Chinese rowing team.

Zhang's daring spirit made her play a role as a stroke.

Before the Olympics, Zhang's best result in world rowing was only a champion in women's double sculls in 2007 World Junior Championships.

The 19-year-old was recruited into the national team only in 2006 but took on an unbelievable performance since then.

Xi Aihua, 26 and the oldest in the quad, played an important part in uniting the sisters.

"We have good relationship, even better than our own brothers or sisters," said she in the post press conference.

Xi, a native of Shandong Province, took up the sport 12 years ago. Before the Olympic regatta, the crew was a bronze medalist in last year's world champs, dwarfed by its archrival Britain, who has crowned in three consecutive world champs.

"They are so much experienced but we have full confidence in ourselves,"said Xi.

Exposed to sunshine for years, Xi's skin is dark while in China women more fancy a white skin colour.

"Everybody loves beauty. I know what Chinese people love but for the sake of our sport, this kind of sacrifice is nothing."

"Don't you think we are beautiful? I think we are very beautiful at the moment," Xi's words received a big applause.

Jin Ziwei lives in Shenyang, capital city of Liaoning. As a city girl, she is often thought to be a lazy bone and can't endure the hardships during the training.

But she did go through the hardships.

When Jin was in senior high school, she was taller than her classmates and began to play basketball thanks to the advantage. Someday, she was selected by a coach of a local sports school and switched to take up rowing.

After being engaged in rowing, Jin almost had no time to spend with her family members.

"After I entered the national team in 2003, I have had only ten days each year to spend with my family,"recalled she.

It was not Jin's Olympic debut. In 2004 Athens Games, she was part of Chinese women's eight crew but only posted a fourth finish.

After the 2004 Games, Jin switched from sweeping to sculling en route to a hard won Olympic gold medal tour.

The Chinese quad looks like a perfect combination but behind the scenes it took long for them to come to a point of this high.

"We have different understanding in terms of techniques," Tang Bin told Xinhua. "And we had quarrels sometimes but only on the water. After the training, our quarrel was also over."

Tang, 22, also came from Liaoning Province. She took up the sport at 14.

"When I first practised rowing, it was on the Yalujian, which had big waves but I found it very interesting," recalled Tang.

In 2006, Tang entered the national team but found it really hard to make a progress by leaps and bounds.

"Actually in terms of my overall strength, I was not good enough. So I tried to catch up with others."

Clear-headed Tang began to make a headway in 2006 after claiming a second place in the world cup. And in 2007, the crew became the third placer in the world champs.

Tang's parents are farmers, which proved a reason for her to take up rowing.

"It's a regret that I didn't study well at that time. But I think it can be made up for in the future."

Tang is eager to study foreign languages because she thinks foreign languages are important for personal future development.

"Not for the present because I have no time. After the Beijing Olympics, I might take some time on it."


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