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Chinese rowers gear up to challenge European giants at Beijing Olympics
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15:46, August 15, 2008

Chinese rowers are gearing up for taking medals at the Beijing Olympics as seven rowing golds are up for grab on Saturday.

The finals on Saturday are women's single sculls, men's single sculls, women's pair, men's pair, women's double sculls, men's double sculls and men's four. The world rankings show that most of the seven boat classes are still predominantly ruled by European elites, but Asian rowers can also see their prospect of beating their arch rivals.

The first final on Saturday is women's single sculls. Ekaterina Karsten from Belarus, Michelle Guerette from the United States and the Czech rower Miroslava Knapkova as well as Chinese Zhang Xiuyun are widely considered favorites for the event.

The 36-year-old Ekaterina, who has taken two Olympic and five World Championship gold medals back home, is most capable of winning the race. The five-time World Champion has been undefeated in World Cup singles racing since 2005.

Of course, the Chinese rower is also in her best shape and may row for a medal in front of a capacity crowd on her home course. She won her heat and semifinal this week and is in good form.

In the women's doubles, Chinese rowers Li Qin and Tian Liang, as well as the New Zealand Swindell twin sisters catch the most spotlight. The Chinese audience pin their hopes on Li/Tian since they won the 2007 World Championship in Munich, Germany, and two World Cup contests this year.

"We pin much hope on the duo," Director of Chinese Water Sports Center Wei Di told Xinhua in a pre-Olympics interview.

In men's single sculls, Norway's Olaf Tufte, Britain's Alan Campbell, Australian Mahe Drysdale and Ondrej Synek from the Czech Republic will duel for the gold medal in the sport of speed and power. Lassi Karonen from Sweden and Tim Maeyens from Belgium will also join the fight.

Tufte is the reigning Olympic champion. Drysdale won three World Championships in a row over the past three years.The Czech and British rowers are no easy to beat. They claimed World Cup titles for the event. So, to predict the winner in the race can be as hard as to foretell the tensity of the fight.

The men's double sculls can be a close fight between New Zealand, Australia and Estonia. Britain and France are also medal prospects.

"My expectations are that we'll lay down three very good races and results will come our way," Australian rower David Crawshay told reporters after winning heat 3 on August 9.

In men's pair, Australia and Canada had the best results in the semifinals, followed by New Zealand and the United States. The duo from South Africa and the two rowers from Germany are also in good shape. They have a result gap of less than two seconds, predicting a fight as hard as you can imagine.

The rowers entering the final for women's pair are all Europeans except Wu You and Gao Yulan. The Chinese boat finished the third in the heat 1 on August 9 and qualified for the final by winning the semifinal on Tuesday. Their result of seven minutes 23.71 seconds is one of the best in the races.

Last but not least, the men's four final will close Saturday's races for the day. Britain, Slovenia, Australia, Czech Republic are strong teams. British Head Coach Juergen Grobler puts his best into men's four and at the last two Olympics, his crew has ruled in the event.

The British crew, however, have kept a low profile.

"On Saturday it is going to be one hell of a race, I promise you that," British Steve Williams said after having qualified for the final in Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on Wednesday.

Rowing is unlike slalom racing where the wheel of luck plays a big role. Rowing is rather a sport of speed and power. But nobody knows whether the winners in the semifinals will come to stand on the podium at last or whether the favorites will lose at the last-minute strokes. This is why rowing is so shrouded in mystery so far.


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1 China 22 7 6 35
2 USA 14 12 18 44
5 Germany 8 2 3 13
3 South Korea 6 7 3 16
4 Italia 6 4 3 13
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