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Meng/Yang: return of king
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09:34, August 24, 2008

Meng Guanliang and Yang Wenjun retained their Olympic title in men's Canoe Double (C2) 500m for China on Saturday, marking the return of the king.

The duo crossed the finish line in one minute and 41.025 seconds. A strong charge made them fall into the water, making a big splash not only for them but for their victory.

Meng, 32, was extremely excited over the victory, choking when receiving interviews. "I have been dreaming of retaining the title. If I do it, I will be the first ever defending champion in the event. I feel deep gratitude for my family members. Without their years' support, I can not make to the top podium."

Meng, a Zhejiang native, felt deep sorry for his wife as when their son was born in 2007, Meng was out in competitions preparing for the Olympics.

Meng's 15-month-old son, Meng Yuhang, showed up in the venue, making No.1 or victory gestures, seemingly tasting his father's joy.

Meng held his son in his arm on the podium, joined by his wife Xu Fengyue. The whole family became the limelight of the venue.

Meng retired after the Tenth National Games in 2005.

One year later, Meng went back to the national team, hoping for a title defence with partner Yang Wenjun.

Training was then too hard for Meng since he was over 105 kg. That's why Meng spent months on fitness training and failed to participate in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

"I know my task then was to reduce my weight and get my shape back,"said Meng.

Meng used to be the best canoeist in China. Experience and solid techniques helped him bounce back. In April 2008, Meng has recovered 80 percent of his strength and his weight has went down to 86 kg.

During Meng's absence, Yang took up C1 and made to the top three in the world. In 2006 and 2007 world championships, he ranked third, marking a surge in his overall strength, which made him initially think of entering both C1 and C2 in the Beijing Olympics.

However, the 25-year-old didn't do that because his best chance to win a gold medal is in men's C2. As for C1, Yang, native of Jiangxi Province, south of China, is unsure of topping the podium even grabbing a medal. Apart from that, Yang might be affected by the wind in the course of Shunyi if he took the C1.

"I know where my advantage is and I know if I pair up with Meng, I can become stronger,"said Yang,"So I gave up C1 and focus on C2. Moreover, since 2004, Meng and I have built up good relations. I'd like to cooperate with him."

The experience of winning gold medal showed the duo's capability of charging for a second glory. And another good news made them more sure of defending the title.

In February 2008, Polish Canadian coach Marek Ploch, came back to the Chinese team, beefing up their confidence.

"We were exhilarated with his comeback because we know it was him who steered us to the champion in Athens,"said Meng.

Ploch coached Australia and Iran respectively in 2004 and 2006, but he finally found it an honour to coach China, hosts of Beijing Games.

Under Ploch's coaching, Meng and Yang have gradually pickup their power. In a team test in April, they even raced into 1 minute and 38 seconds, a result good enough to bolster a gold in the Beijing Games.

Ploch gave Meng a big hug after the race, saying No.2 more than once, which meant a second gold for the duo.

"Meng sustained a back injury about two weeks ago, or else he might race better," Ploch said.


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