China looks to break through in Olympics hockey

July 21st, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Zhou Huimin
Beijing, July 21 (Xinhua) China’s hockey teams have obtained a direct entry to the Beijing Olympics as hosts, but it won’t be easy for them to stand out in the tournament. Since the Champions Trophy in May and June, the Chinese teams have whipped up form for the Olympics. The women’s team have set sights on a long-awaited medal, while the men’s side are seeking a top-eight breakthrough.

However, it’s unlucky for both the Chinese men’s and women’s teams to be drawn to face powerful rivals.

The Chinese men’s team, ranked lowest at 17th, is bundled with world championship runners-up Germany, fourth-ranked Spain and No. 5 South Korea.

China’s South Korean coach Kim Sang Ryul admitted it was impossible to win a medal, adding a top-eight finish was a realistic goal.

The Chinese women, ranked sixth in the world, will face the world champions the Netherlands, 2000 Olympic champions Australia and Asian powerhouse South Korea.

Coached by South Korean Kim Chang Back since 1999, the Chinese women qualified for the final stage at the Sydney Olympic Games for the first time and finished fifth.

They finished fourth at the Athens Olympics and won a gold medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

With the Chinese teams undergoing intense training, their powerful opponents, such as Germany, Australia and the Netherlands, have geared up for Olympic medals.

In the men’s field, Germany hope to bounce back from June’s defeat to win their first Olympic gold in 16 years.

The Germans lost their world top ranking to defending Olympic champions Australia when they finished fifth in the Champions Trophy in the Netherlands.

While Australia are looking to defend their title, the Netherlands, whose dream for their third straight Olympic gold was dashed by the Australians, are hoping for a comeback.

On the women’s side, world champions the Netherlands hope to revenge the Athens Olympic final defeat to Germany, while a hard duel against the formidable Argentina will be inevitable.

Germany, the defending champions, hope to continue their gold dream. Australia, the winners of three golds in the last six Olympics, also want to repeat their glory.

Despite so-called home advantage, the Chinese teams have nothing else in their favour, said Kim Chang Back.

Field hockey was first played as a men’s competition at the Summer Games in London in 1908, but it was not until the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928 it became a regular medal sport. Women’s hockey first appeared at the Olympics in Moscow in 1980.

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