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Nations urged to go China way to excel at Olympics

By Ben Ochieng (Xinhua)

09:50, May 02, 2012

NAIROBI, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Countries that want to excel at the London Olympics, and at any Olympic Games for that matter, must go the Chinese way.

Eight years ago in Athens, China finished second to the United States in the medals tally at the Olympic Games.

Four years later at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China topped the standings at home with a gold medal tally of 51, the highest ever medal haul since the Soviet Union took 55 in Seoul in 1988.

This came as no surprise to those who know about sports because apart from pouring millions of dollars in showcasing its magnificent infrastructure and organizational capacity, China, a nation which takes huge pride in its sporting supremacy, also invested a lot in nurturing talent.

The home advantage, so crucial on such occasions was of course a bonus. So, how did China, a nation which got 32 gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games cross the half a century mark in Beijing?

Since finishing third in the medals table at the 2000 Sydney Games, China went back to the drawing board and adopted 'Project 119' that basically looked at the number of medals available in each discipline and devised a way of wining the maximum from them.

The Kenyan National Olympic Committee chairman Kipchoge Keino concedes that for a country to excel at the Olympics, it must start preparing early for the Games.

"Serious countries start preparing for the next Olympics immediately the curtains close on the preceding one. They do a post mortem of the games and identify their weak areas and how they can be corrected and then embark on an Olympic programme," the veteran of several Olympic Games both as an athlete and official told Xinhua in Nairobi on Monday.

Keino, who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Council member, said those countries that want to do extremely well at the quadrennial games must have massive programme involving specialized coaches, expert trainers and world class facilities must be at the disposal of athletes.

In Beijing, China reaped its harvest of gold mainly from its traditional strongholds of weightlifting (8), diving (7), gymnastics (9), and shooting (5).

It also reaped its first gold medals in boxing, archery, rowing, sailing and trampoline. There was also a surprise gold in fencing in the men's individual sabre, China's first in 24 years.

China came back to the Olympics in 1984 in Los Angeles, after a hiatus that ended in 1979 when the IOC reinstated it after accepting the country's demand that only one team be entered as the People's Republic of China, where it made a big impact by winning 15 gold medals to occupy the fourth place.

In Seoul, China could only manage five gold medals and raised the gold medal tally to 16 in 1992 in Barcelona and equaled the tally four years later in Atlanta. In Athens, China finished behind the US by just four gold medals with 32.

Keino says China is now on top of the world as a result of dedication and a lot of support from the state. So how will China perform at the London 2012? The answer is only several weeks away.

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