777-strong Team China eyes glory at Tokyo Games

By / China Daily / Updated: 11:08,15-July-2021

Women wearing protective face masks walk past the Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo, on March 25, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

China is sending its largest team to overseas Olympic Games as it aims to boost its medal haul in Tokyo in sports it does not traditionally do well in.

The Chinese Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday it will send 431 athletes, 133 men and 298 women, to the Tokyo 2020 Games. The event starts on July 23 after a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Very nearly all of the delegation, which also includes 346 coaches, trainers and officials, has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the General Administration of Sport of China.

Chinese athletes have qualified in 225 events across 30 sports at the Games, which features 339 medal events over 17 days of competition.

Team China, led by 24 Olympic champions, is expected to perform well in table tennis, diving, weightlifting, shooting, gymnastics and badminton, six sports it is traditionally strong in. The team hopes to better its haul of 26 gold medals won at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Liu Guoliang, president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, said after the delegation's unveiling ceremony on Wednesday, that tension was building as the opening of the Games draws closer. "We hope to perform well and with style in Tokyo to present the image of Chinese Olympians to the world," said Liu, whose squad will compete for five gold medals.

To improve competitiveness in some Western-dominated sports, such as track and field, rowing and water polo, the Chinese delegation has hired 30 foreign coaches and physical trainers from 19 countries.

Steve Redgrave, a five-time Olympic rowing champion for Great Britain, said he has been impressed by the progress of Chinese rowers since he took over the national program in 2018 as director of high-level performance. "We are now a good team going to Tokyo," Redgrave said last week at the team's training base in northeastern Beijing's Shunyi district.

"We've got chances of good medals, hopefully gold medals. The plan is to get stronger for Paris 2024, so Tokyo is just a steppingstone."

China's much-improved women's quadruple sculls team and the men's double sculls are gold medal favorites in Tokyo, he said.

Tokyo authorities announced on Monday a fourth state of emergency due to the pandemic, advising bars and restaurants to close early. Last week, the International Olympic Committee and the Games organizers made the decision to ban spectators from nearly all venues as a precautionary health measure.

The Chinese delegation has followed its own health protocols in addition to those set by the Games organizers to ensure the safety of all team members.

The one-year postponement of the Games has given the youngsters on the team the chance to sharpen their skills.

Boxer Chen Daxiang, an Olympic debutant who will fight in men's 81-kilogram division, said, "The progress I made has helped boost my confidence, knowing that I am a better athlete than a year ago."

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