China ready to challenge western dominance in water sports

July 26th, 2008 - 1:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 26 (Xinhua) Host China announced its biggest-ever Olympic delegation and strongest-ever in water sports in an attempt to break the decades-long dominance by western countries in the so-called “events of the elite”. The Chinese delegation named Friday is a long list of 639 athletes, including 56 in rowing, paddling and kayaking at the Shunyi Olympic Canoeing-Kayaking Park. The rowers, canoeists and paddlers from the host country will participate in 11 rowing events, all four slalom events and 11 flatwater events of canoeing and kayaking.

China has made progress in water sports in leaps and bounds in the past decade. It sent competitors to water sports in the second half of the last century, but it claimed its first-ever Olympic gold medal in flatwater C2 500 metres in Athens four years ago. This time, it stands ready to demand a larger share of the cake.

“We have several events where China can try to get the highest titles,” China Water Sports Center Director Wei Di told Xinhua.

He also said that China had achieved considerable progress in rowing, canoeing and kayaking over the last nine years, constituting a serious challenge to the Western countries, which have dominated the discipline for several decades.

“Four gold medals will be up for grabs in the first days of the Olympics. The first two gold medals have nothing to do with China. We are rather weak in these fields. But we can try to win the second day’s final racing in kayak 1 women and canoe 2 men.” he said.

Wei Di attributed the achievements made by China in slalom racing to the country’s huge investment in the area.

“We now have 10 competition venues in the country and five of them are up to international standards,” he said.

In flatwater racing, Yang Wenjun and Meng Guanliang, who won the C2 500 metre race in Athens Olympics, are favourites to defend their title in Beijing because they are in good shape.

As for rowing, Wei said that Chinese athletes can try to win medals in LW2X, W4X and LM4-, adding that M8+ is also an event where China can try to secure a medal.

Wei said that there were several new faces in the Chinese team because these athletes had made “commendable progress” over the last two years or in the run-up to the Beijing Games.

The Chinese rowers will live near the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park from Aug 3 to prepare for the races which start Aug 9, Wei Di said.

He did not speculate on the number of gold medals the Chinese athletes can get in water sports in the coming regatta, but said that China aims high and is trying to accomplish the goals.

Rowing as an Olympic discipline is as old as modern Olympics. Canoeing and kayaking flatwater became an Olympic discipline in 1936 while slalom racing made its appearance in the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 and then had to wait until 1992 to be reinstated to the Olympic programme.

Western countries have dominated the water sports for several decades. Statistics show that over 90 percent of gold medals have been won by Western athletes in modern Olympic Games. Rowing is as popular in Britain as table tennis in China. As rowing, canoeing and kayaking are very expensive hobbies in the west, they have long been taken as “events of the elite”. Most countries in the developing world shy away from the events for lack of funds.

But now things are changing rapidly.

More and more athletes hailing from other continents come to challenge European dominance in water sports. South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and China are popping up in this field.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |