China´s rising stars crave Olympic show-down 07-27-2004 16:06

Preparations are hot and competition is fierce among Chinese athletes who are definitely on their way or still vying for a place at the upcoming Athens Olympics. In our weekly countdown to the world's biggest sporting event, we meet some of the athletes craving Olympic glory.

Luo Wei is a Chinese tae-kwon-do player. She made her maiden international appearance two years ago in the 14th Pusan Asian Games 67kg category. Competing for the bronze, she conquered her rival with a landslide victory. Luo's fierce attacks left home fans deeply impressed, and local media described her as "the toughest girl ever seen".

Now the world champion, the 21-year-old is busy with preparations for the incoming Athens Olympics. Though she has had years of arduous training, she says she has still got a lot to learn in order to improve her performance. She says that what needs improving in the coming 3 months is not her physique but her brain, as her sport requires a lot of thinking during the competition. But she says it will be of little problem for her.

Lou Wei, Chinese tae-kwon-do player, said, "The moment I was awarded the world championship, I told myself it was in the past. I think all people should always look forward to new challenges. All athletes want the gold medal since the beginning of the game. If you just want to finish 2nd, don't get onto the stage."

Her coaches all agree that Luo Wei has great potential, but she needs more composure to be a top player in the long run and to bring home an Athens Olympic gold.

Xiao Qin is one of the national gymnastics team biggest hopes of winning an Olympic gold medal in Athens. He says he has been waiting for this opportunity for 3 years.

Xiao Qin has failed to clinch a pommel horse world championship title twice in the past couple of years by razor-thin margins. He has not dwelled on his losses but has raised his performance to a higher level. But he says his biggest dream is to be an Olympic gold medallist.

Xiao Qin, Chinese gymnast, said, "I often dream at night, dreaming of playing at the Games. I must win because I have not won any championships or gold medals in the past 2 years. I am looking forward to it."

His coaches have been trying every possible means to improve his mental strength, including giving him no time for pre-game warm-ups. For them, any minor mistake can't be tolerated because for most gymnasts, there is only one Olympics.

Li Na, a Chinese diver, has been forcing herself to undergo intensive body-building for months. She is trying to break through her current performance levels by improving her physical strength. She says that this is crucial to sharpen her competitiveness at Athens Olympics and stand out among so many talented teammates.

She has her own advantages: she is consistent and gives high quality performances after years of competition. Although she did not attend the Athens world diving tournament earlier this year, she said she is confident that another chance to prove her abilities will come. She said, "I want to stand on top of the world diving arena, so I have to make painstaking efforts. Olympic gold medallists can't train half-heartedly. My aim is to represent China in the Athens Olympics."

Li Na won a gold medal for China in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and she is looking forward to performing for a 2nd time. The coaches of the Chinese team will make the final decision on who will attend on June the 30th.


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