Olympics: China Looks to Gymnasts, Divers to Bolster Medal Haul

China's bulging bag of gold medals looks set to get bigger here Tuesday with the host nation hot favourites in diving, gymnastics and weightlifting on day five of the Olympic Games.

China's Qin Xiao (R) and Wei Yang (L) walk past each other during the men's team final of the artistic gymnastics event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on August 12, 2008. (AFP Photo)

The powerful Chinese team, bidding to knock the United States from the top of the final medal standings for the first time, has been dominant over the opening days of the Games, collecting nine gold, three silvers and two bronze.

Another 19 are at stake Tuesday with the United States closing the gap on their arch-rivals early in the day with Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol and Natalie Coughlin winning in the pool.

The Americans now have six gold, six silver and seven bronze.

China, though, is almost certain to add to their haul through their all-conquering men's gymnastics team, who dominated qualifying in the team event, pommel horse, rings, parallel bars and the individual all-around event.

Japan, Russia, and South Korea are their nearest challengers but Japanese coach Koji Gushiken knows it is a near almost impossible task to reel in the home nation.

"The Chinese are too strong and the only opportunity for us is to wait for them to make a mistake," he said.

China has won four weightlifting gold medals so far and it has six lifters still in contention in the remaining 10 divisions, led by Shi Zhiyong on Tuesday in the men's 69kg.

Shi won the 56kg title in Athens four years ago but has since upgraded to the heavier weight and is a favourite to win a second Olympic gold. Compatriot Liao Hui also starts.

China has no-one in the women's 63kg category where Svetlana Tsarukaeva is aiming for Russia's first weightlifting gold of the Games.

When it comes to diving, the Chinese have few peers and it has two-out-of-two off the boards so far with a third virtually certain Tuesday.

Wang Xin, who was 16 on Monday, is looking for a late birthday present with 15-year-old partner Chen Ruolin in the women's 10m synchronized platform.

China has won the event for the past two Olympics since it was included on the schedule in Sydney in 2000 and in Wang, the world number one, and Chen, the world number two, another triumph is on the cards.

"I am confident of bringing back two gold medals at the Games," said Chen. "I will work hard on every dive instead of caring too much about results."

Their biggest threat is expected to come from Australia's Melissa Wu and Briony Cole.

On the ranges, Russia's Mikhail Nestruev will be shooting for his second Olympic gold in the 50m Pistol with China's Tan Zongliang, in his fourth Games, an outside chance.

Olympic debutant Hu Binyuan will challenge Indian sharpshooter Rajyavardhan Singh in the men's Double Trap final.

China is poised for a clean sweep in the table tennis which gets underway Tuesday with the men's and women's team events.

The top four men and top five women in the world hail from the mainland with the Chinese men led by Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin while Zhang Yining, Guo Yue and Wang Nan are the stars of the women's team.

In the pool, Sun Ye finished seventh in the women's 100m breaststroke final, won by Australia's Leisel Jones.

Medal hope Wu Peng qualified for the 200m butterfly final where he will try to halt Phelps's charge for an unprecedented eight golds at a single Games.

Source: AFP

Other news