Three-way battle for top spot

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 2003, 12:00am

THE UNIVERSIADE medals table is already taking shape. China, the United States and Russia are expected to tussle for most gold medals, while hosts South Korea should win more than they usually do at a Universiade.

China is the reigning Universiade champion - it was the top performer in Beijing in 2001 with 53 golds. The US was second with 19.

China has sent a large contingent and could challenge that record haul this time. The mainland is expected to rake in a healthy medal tally in athletics, swimming and gymnastics which account for 110 of the 185 golds on offer.

The US has been the leading gold medal winner at seven Universiades. It led five times in succession until 2001 when it was runner-up. But it has certainly sacrificed at least one medal already - there will be no US men's basketball team this year.

The US is expected to challenge for honours in nine events including swimming, diving, water polo and volleyball. The former Soviet Union was the medal leader nine times, but Russia has yet to top the table. Four years ago in Mallorca, Spain, the nation was runner-up with 14 golds.

South Korea's best finish was fifth with 10 golds at the 1995 Games in Fukuoka, Japan. This time it is aiming for 19 golds. It has 280 athletes competing in 13 sports and looks particularly strong in taekwondo, judo and archery - the three 'optional' events chosen by the host country. Partisan support will also be a factor in their favour.