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UPDATED: July 23, 2012 NO. 30 JULY 26, 2012
Gold Diggers
Chinese athletes aim for new glory in London 2012 Summer Olympic Games
By Tang Yuankai

SETTING OFF: Chinese star hurdler Liu Xiang waves to his fans at the airport in Shanghai before leaving for London on July 11 (FAN JUN)

China's star hurdler Liu Xiang's injury that forced him to quit the London Diamond League final will not affect his performance at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said Liu's coach Sun Haiping on July 15.

As one of China's biggest sports stars, Liu, the "Chinese Fly Man," has long been the focus of attention for all audiences. His fame skyrocketed when he became the first Asian to win the gold medal in the men's 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"In his previous training in Shanghai, he hurt his intercostal muscle from overexerting himself. Liu had said he could run in the final, but just to be safe, we decided to quit the finals so as to ensure his training for and good performance at the London Olympics," said Sun.

Liu had qualified for the 110-meter hurdles final after winning the heat in 13.27 seconds at the 2012 London Diamond League, but was unable to continue due to his back injury. The final was won by American hurdler Aries Merritt in 12.93 seconds.

He will be competing in the men's 110-meter hurdles which will be held on August 7, and the gold medal will be decided on August 8.

READY TO GO: The Chinese delegation for the London 2012 Summer Olympics sings the national anthem at its founding ceremony in Beijing on July 10 (GONG LEI)

Battling for gold

At the moment, the battle for gold medals remains a contest primarily between China and the United States, according to previous Olympic statistics.

For many spectators, their biggest concern besides Liu is how many gold medals the Chinese team can win in the upcoming Olympics. Hopes are high that the team can match the accomplishment of ranking No. 1 in the gold medal standings at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In 2008, the Chinese team won 51 gold medals, 15 more than that of the United States, which ranked No. 2 in the gold medal tally.

Without the home field advantage, and due to changes in some events as well as certain rules, it will be difficult for the Chinese athletes to match the glory of 2008. However, many Chinese sports experts still hold an optimistic attitude.

China is expected to win around 35 gold medals in London. Since none of the three most competitive teams—China, the United States and Russia—is the host country, there is a strong chance China could maintain its No. 1 rank in the gold medal standing this year, said Yi Jiandong, a professor of the Beijing Sport University.

The audience's high expectation is backed up by a strong line-up on the Chinese team. China has sent a delegation of 621 members this year, of whom 396 are athletes, with 33 of those being gold medal winners in the Athens or the Beijing Olympic Games.

These top-notch athletes will participate in all the competitions in London except football, handball and equestrian. They will be competing with their global peers in 23 sports comprising 212 events.

"Many people believe the gold-medal count of the upcoming Olympics will be basically in line with that of World Championship and World Cup. In that case, the United States is most likely to top the list," said Yi.

However, individual event competitions differ from the Olympics. Given their rich experience and unparalleled skill, there is little chance that Chinese athletes will lose championships in events like diving, table tennis, badminton, gymnastics, weight lifting, shooting, women's judo, trampoline and women's taekwondo. Yi predicted all the above-mentioned events may earn the Chinese team around 30 gold medals in the upcoming games.

Sports stars

China is expected to win gold in the men's table tennis singles. However, the previous champion, Ma Lin, was not selected as a member of the delegation this time. He acted as a training partner instead.

Wang Hao, a 28-year-old pen-hold grip player, has won three World Cups and one World Championship. If he manages to take the first place in men's table tennis singles in London, he will become the third Grand Slam champion of the sports, following two other Chinese players Liu Guoliang and Kong Linghui.

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