Games hopefuls are starting to feel the heat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am

Chinese athletes at next year's Beijing Olympics could be placed under unbearable pressure to succeed, Sports Minister Liu Peng said.

The emerging sports superpower, which bagged home 32 gold medals in Athens three years ago, is tipped to attain supremacy on home soil, an outlook, Liu said, that is probably taking a toll.

'The attention and care from parents, brothers, friends, leaders, media and sponsors is accumulating and creating an unbearable pressure,' Liu said of the estimated 570 Chinese athletes, who will attend the Games as the biggest ever Chinese delegation in history. China fielded 407 athletes for the Athens Games.

'That could affect their performance,' Liu added.

Sports officials from Britain and US projected that China will almost certainly dominate the gold medal tally in Beijing.

'We have never said we will top the medal table at the Beijing Games. We have never set any such targets,' said Liu, at the Communist Party Congress.

'Gold medals are not the most important thing for the host nation. The most important thing is to make the 2008 Games a success and to make all the delegates from around the world satisfied.'

But such rhetoric does little to put brakes on the hype.

So the Chinese coaches have already started addressing the concern in their own way.

The all-conquering Chinese diving team has introduced regular weekend psychology lectures in their training camp to ease the mental burden on athletes.