Yao eyes medal in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am

Yao Ming believes his country has a strong chance of winning a medal as hosts at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - provided they continue improving.

The NBA superstar, who arrived in town to conduct several charity activities as ambassador for the Hong Kong Committee For China Aids Initiative, said at a press conference yesterday the China national team can peak nicely for the Beijing Games.

The Houston Rockets centre recently led China to their 14th title at the Asian Championships in Doha, Qatar and the 2.29m giant was confident China could do well in the next Olympics having reached the quarter-finals in Athens last year, eventually finishing seventh.

'We have a lot of young players who are coming up. They are around 20 or 21 years old now and they will have gained more experience by the time the next Olympics come around. We've got players now who will be 27 or 28 in 2008, so they will be just about at their prime,' said Yao, who recently celebrated his 25th birthday.

'If we continue training hard and giving a high performance each time we play and if we continue to get exposure by competing overseas, there is no reason why we shouldn't win a medal,' he said.

China have made astonishing progress since Yao joined the NBA in 2002 from the Shanghai Sharks. The Chinese team have made marked progress under new head coach Jonas Kaslauskas and the signs are good for the future.

The Lithuanian coach had said that Yao was pivotal to the Chinese team's progress and the Houston Rockets star had already helped his younger teammates by showing them what he had learned from the NBA.

China were a class apart in Doha, where they easily defeated Lebanon in the final after disposing of South Korea with their biggest-ever win. Yao netted 27 points and 15 rebounds to lead China in a 93-49 rout of the Koreans last Thursday.

Yao will take part in a charity gala dinner tonight when several of his items will be put up for auction. He will meet around 3,000 local schoolchildren at Queen Elizabeth Stadium tomorrow before leaving the SAR on Friday for a short holiday in Shanghai. He then heads back to the US, where he will join the Rockets for pre-season games.