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China sailing team hopes to grab a gold

"We look for at least one gold medal in the sailing events in Qingdao," said Yao Xinpei, the deputy head of the Chinese sailing team before the opening of the Olympics.

"Competition will be fierce but we will do our best," Yao added.

As the host, China is directly qualified to enter all 11 sailing events. Sailors competing in Yngling, 49er and Finn events were selected from Qingdao.

The Chinese team also has gold medal chances in men`s and women`s windsurfing and the Laser Radial sailing class.

Ben Ainslie of Britain (L) and Zhang Peng of China competing in Finn class sail upwind during the first race of the sailing competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao, Shandong province,August 9, 2008. [Agencies]

Women`s windsurfer Yin Jian won a silver medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Determined to give her best performance at home, Yin has been training hard.

Laser Radial competitor Xu Lijia, currently ranked second in the world by the International Sailing Federation, is another one leading China`s bid for a sailing gold.

Young and talented, Xu won the 2006 Laser Radial World Championships and took a silver medal at the 2008 Worlds. World No 1 Anna Tunnicliffe of the United States and Tania Elias Calles Wolf of Mexico are Xu`s strongest rivals.

Tiantai is a local Qingdao team that is representing China in the Yngling event. It won third and sixth place respectively in the 2006 and 2007 Qingdao International Sailing Regatta.

To prepare for the Games Wang Yong, coach of the team, invited foreign coaches to help the athletes improve their skills and strategy.

Experts also gave psychological guidance to bring out a top-notch performance.

"We undertook physical training and studied competition rules in the morning, and went out on the water in the afternoons to familiarize ourselves with the venue," said Song Xiaqun, a competitor with the Tiantai team.

Although there is still a long way to go for China`s 470 and Tornado-class sailors to catch other world-class teams, the Olympics provides the Chinese athletes a great opportunity to learn.

Sailing as a sport began in China in 1978 and developed rapidly. More than 20 provinces, cities and regions now plan to start sailing competitions.

China has taken first place many times in the Asian Games. The women`s windsurfing team has won five world titles.

China won two silver medals in Barcelona in 1992 and the same in Athens four years ago - but never a gold.

Date:2008-8-11 8:43:00     
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