Golden girl Dai bids for six of the best
CHINESE swimming sensation Dai Guohong will be challenging for six gold medals at the Epson World Cup, which starts this morning in a shortened 25-metre pool at Kowloon Park.
The 16-year-old breaststroke specialist, who won three individual gold medals at the short-course world championships in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, four weeks ago, will be contesting two events today and four tomorrow.
Her first swim will be in the heats of the 100 metres breaststroke, followed by the 200 metres individual medley. The finals will be held in the evening.
Dai will really test her strength tomorrow, however, by competing in the 50 metres breaststroke, 400 metres individual medley, 200 metres breaststroke and finally the 100 metres individual medley.
It's a tall order for the precocious teenager - but one she feels is necessary as she starts to make her mark at world level.
''I have come here for hard training, not to set best times, but this does not mean I won't be trying to win,'' said Dai, who lives in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province.
''I'm not in good condition because I feel tired after the world championships in Palma. These two events are too close together to do your best times in both.'' Dai was the star of the short-course world championships, winning gold in the 100 metres and 200 metres breaststroke and the 400 metres individual medley.
She added a fourth gold in the 4 ? 100 metres medley relay - and all four golds were won in world record times.
The youngest of six sisters, Dai began swimming when she was eight years old and joined the national squad in 1991.
An average day at her live-in swim centre in Shenyang involves around five hours' training and the same amount of studying.
''My main target for 1994 is the Asian Games in October and after that the Atlanta Olympics in 1996,'' she added.
Her efforts will be channelled into two main events for Atlanta - the 200 metres breaststroke and the 400 metres individual medley.
Japan's 14-year-old Kyoko Iwasaki won the 200 metres breaststroke in Barcelona and Hungary's Krisztina Egerszegi was the 400 metres individual medley champion.
The silver medallist on each occasion was China's Lin Li, who earned gold in the 200 metres individual medley.
Lin, 24, will be the only one of China's four female Olympic swimming champions on view this weekend in Hong Kong. The other three - Yang Wenyi (50 metres freestyle), Zhuang Yong (100 metres freestyle) and Qian Hong (100 metres butterfly) - are all havinga long break but the Chinese coaches in Hong Kong have not ruled out the possibility of them returning for this year's two main events: the World Championships in Rome in September and the Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan, the following month.
Zhuang, who is married to TVB sports reporter Ken Lau and is staying in Hong Kong, attended the Chinese squad's training session at Kowloon Park yesterday afternoon and will be a spectator over the weekend.
Lin, who has sore shoulders, will be contesting only one event this weekend - the 100 metres individual medley tomorrow.
There will be 17 events today and 17 tomorrow, making a total of 34 gold medals up for grabs for the 15 countries taking part.
The action begins this morning at nine o'clock.