Chinese swimmer twins want Olympic medal for quake-hit town

July 19th, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 19 (Xinhua) Chinese swimmer twins Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting from the southwest Sichuan province want to assuage the grief of their earthquake-hit hometown by winning a medal in the Olympics Games next month. A major earthquake hit Sichuan in May, killing more than 80,000 people. However, the twins’ family was fortunate to escape unscathed.

“We were lucky, but lots of people in my hometown were not. We are training hard so that our achievements can comfort them,” said Wenwen.

Training nine to 10 hours in the water during the day, the 22-year-olds are among the best synchronised swimmers of China and will lead their country’s quest for medals at the Olympics.

China has never reached the Olympic podium for synchronised swimming, which has been dominated by the US since the discipline was added at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Russia bagged the gold for the sport at the last two Olympics, while Japan, Spain and Canada have also emerged as strong teams in the recent past.

However, the Jiang sisters are confident of winning. In 2006, they dethroned longtime Asian champion Japan at the Doha Asian Games in both duet and team routines.

Months later, the swimmers finished fourth in team and duet competitions at the 2007 Melbourne World Championships. At the April Olympic qualifier event in Beijing, the Jiang twins held off the Japanese duo and won the silver.

“We are more sure of ourselves after these competitions. We are trying to improve execution and are working on the difficult moves,” said Tingting.

Tingting said she and her sister have increased their diet and have gained more than five kilograms since 2007. The added weight, they say, helped them improve strength and stability.

The girls credit their coach Masayo Imura for their achievements. “She is very strict, but she also takes very good care of us,” said Wenwen at the April tournament.

Imura, 58, has coached Japan’s synchronised swimming team since 1978, helping her swimmers win eight Olympic medals over the past 30 years. She started coaching in China after the Doha Games.

Imura said the twins have improved markedly in strength, technique and speed in the past two years and she is determined to see the girls come back with an Olympic medal.

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