Don't expect miracles - China coach warns
CHINA'S record-breaking female swimmers arrived in the territory yesterday for the Epson World Cup with their coaches insisting: ''Don't expect miracles from them in Hong Kong.'' Olympic champion Lin Li and teenagers Dai Guohong and Le Jingyi are among a 29-strong squad from the mainland for the two-day meet at Kowloon Park. A total of 34 events will be contested tomorrow and Sunday in the first leg of the seven-stage short-course(25 metres) World Cup.
At the inaugural short-course world championships in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, at the beginning of December, China won 10 of the 16 gold medals in the women's events - including three for Dai and two for Le, all in world record times.
But deputy head coaches Zhang Xiong and Zhou Ming said world records would not be the priority in Hong Kong.
Said Zhang: ''We were not surprised by all the records in Mallorca because it was the first time a world championship had been held over the short-course distance and we knew that some of the times were not too high.
''This event is a bit too close to the world championships to start thinking about breaking records again. We are here for the training and to get some international competition.'' Zhou added: ''Some of the top swimmers, such as Franziska Van Almsick and Jenny Thompson, were not competing in Mallorca so it was a good chance for our younger swimmers to perform well.
''I think it's going to be pretty hard for them to repeat that form in Hong Kong. We do not want to put too much pressure on them; we want them to improve the intensity of their training because this is a new start.
''They will not be reaching their peak until the World Championships in Rome in September and the Asian Games in Japan in October.'' Lin, 24, won the 200 metres individual medley in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in world record time but is unlikely to defend her title in Atlanta in 1996. Next October's Asian Games may be her last competitive swim.
The rising stars of the women's team are 16-year-old Dai, from Liaoning province, and Le, 18, from Shanghai.
Dai won three individual golds in Mallorca - the 400 metres individual medley, 100 metres breaststroke and 200 metres breaststroke.
Le won two individual fresstyle golds - the 50 metres and 100 metres.
The other five gold medals were won by Liu Limin (200 metres butterfly), He Cihong (200 metres backstroke) and by the relay teams - 4 ? 200 freestyle, 4 ? 100 freestyle and 4 ? 100 medley.
Coach Zhou said the swimmers' current training levels were at a low three-to-four hours a day.
''They are swimming between four and five kilometres during their 11/2-hour session in the morning and between six and seven kilometres in their 21/2-hour session in the afternoon.
''As we approach major events this will rise to between 16 and 18 kilometres a day over three sessions at a high-altitude training camp.'' The emergence of Chinese sportswomen on the world scene - in swimming and in distance running - has been accompanied by accusations from the West of the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Zhou said a lack of understanding and jealousy had prompted the accusations.
''We have come from a starting position and moved up quickly, so some of the coaches may be jealous. They do not like the fact that we can improve so quickly,'' said Zhou.
''I think also there is an unfriendly attitude towards us. Developed countries with a high standard of living think sport belongs to them. They do not believe that Asian people - and people from countries which are not developed - can do well in sport.
''In China and in other Asian countries our living standards grow better and better and our sports are getting better.
''We need time to know other people and other people need time to know us and share our training experiences.''