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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: December 3, 2010 NO. 49 DECEMBER 9, 2010
Hopes and Challenges
China tops the medal tally again at the Asian Games but still faces challenges in some events

HARD RELAY: Chinese sprinters lift the men's 4x100 meters relay title by clocking a season best 38.78 seconds on November 26 (JIANG XIAOYING)

The young athletes he was referring to, first-time competitors in a multi-sports event of this magnitude, won a total of 127 gold medals.

"They are becoming the centerpieces for many of our national teams," Duan said.

China made a sensational clean-sweep of all seven table tennis gold medals at the Games and took five golds at the badminton team and individual events. Chinese gymnasts claimed 13 gold medals at 14 events.

After the 5-day competitions from November 22-26, Chinese divers swept all 10 gold medals at stake and 6 silvers.

Hu Yadan, the youngest diver in the Chinese team, grabbed the attention of the raucous crowd with some clean entries in the women's 10-meter platform on November 25. Ranked No.1 in this event, the 14-year-old snatched seven perfect 10s in the final en route to securing her first Asian Games title.

The 1.45 meters tall woman surprised the world with her dexterity when she won a diving Grand Prix event in Madrid, Spain last year and looks to be a strong contender at the 2012 London Olympics.

Apparent problems

However, Duan warned that the Games also highlighted potential stumbling blocks.

"Some of the winning results were far too low compared to the Olympics. Just because we had a successful Asian Games does not necessarily mean we will be bound for success in London," Duan said.

Duan raised his concerns on specific events like archery, fencing, wrestling, canoeing and track and field, which may be the main route for China to collect gold medals at London.

China ended its fencing campaign with only one individual gold and three gold medals in the six team events, while South Korea won five of the six individual gold medals on offer and collected two gold medals in the team events.

"Many of our team events were also disappointing. Our men's and women's soccer teams, as well as the men's volleyball team, finished with one of the worst results at the Asian Games this time," Duan added. "Our poor performances in the men's handball and baseball competitions also taught us we have a long way to go in these areas."

China lost 3-0 to Japan in the opener of the men's soccer competition, and was stopped by South Korea in the quarterfinals. The women's team lost twice to South Korea and once to Japan, finishing without a medal for the first time in the history of Asian Games.

Based on a mature professional league and youth-training systems, South Korea and Japan have gradually become the top two teams in Asia.

Chinese soccer, affected by match-fixing, crooked referees, illegal gambling and dwindling youths pools, has been in its low tide in the past few years.

Wei Di, head of the Chinese Football Association, showed his determination to get the sport back on track since taking the position early this year.

"For Chinese soccer, you cannot count on one day to see its advancement," Wei said. "Now, priority is to get more and more boys back to the soccer field. We have to build up the groundwork first, then promote the league and the youth-training system. After years of patient work, I'm sure Chinese soccer will have a new look."

Meanwhile, the men's team finished the worst-ever fifth in the volleyball competition, and seventh in the men's handball at the Guangzhou Games.

Although China's men's and women's basketball teams kept hold of their gold medals at the Games, there appeared to be some problems.

The young players of the men's team were involved into a brawl with a Brazilian team in a warm-up match before the Games.

"The young athletes are becoming the centerpiece of every national team. Some of them had showed us how good they are to represent their country, while others had to learn more in the future," said Duan.

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