'I believe more miracles will happen to me. I will have reached my peak as an athlete by Beijing,' says Athens hero Liu Xiang China exceeded all expectations in Athens, winning 32 gold medals and 63 overall. But there is no doubt they will reap a better harvest in 2008. Already, youngsters are hard at training, knowing they will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance of performing at the top level in front of their home fans. At the Beijing Gymnastics National Training Centre, tiny female gymnasts as young as eight sail through the air like seasoned professionals. Swinging and somersaulting before landing for a perfect dismount into the guiding hands of their coaches, the youngsters are already seizing the moment. With the Olympics right at their doorstep, these young athletes are seen as the latest to be churned out of the production line - the ones who will be trained for the moment for 2008. China is making every effort to make sure its athletes will be ready. Only in the early 80s did China rejoin the Olympic movement following decades of isolation, but already the mainland is considered the second sporting power behind the United States. In Athens, 407 athletes - 138 men and 269 women - competed in the Olympic arena, but that number is expected to rise significantly when many of those athletes return for another crack at the medals in Beijing. Athens set the foundation for hundreds of those athletes, who will be aiming for more glory. Only 84 had previous Olympic experience, but many will take advantage of their home ground advantage and no doubt become part of China's biggest squad to compete at an Olympics. 'We have sent a lot of younger athletes to Athens because we wanted them to garner some experience and be exposed to the Olympic arena,' said Li Furong, Chinese Olympic Committee vice-president. 'We hope they will take this experience with them and perform better in Beijing. The young athletes should experience what the Olympics are all about. It will be intense for some of them but experience should do them a world of good. 'We will probably end up competing in all the events in Beijing [China competed in 28 events in Athens, leaving out baseball and equestrian] so we will be involved in all the sports. We should take advantage of our home court advantage and compete in all the events,' he said. While the sheer size of China's participation will definitely be increased, the mainland should still excel in the traditional sports in which they have become powerhouses. Sports like table tennis, badminton, weightlifting, diving and gymnastics will continue to be the mainland's main source of medals, although China have made steady progress in other sports like women's hockey, fencing, rowing and canoeing. China national gymnastics coach Huang Yubin is convinced his young female charges will be ready in four years' time. Female gymnasts like Zhang Nan, Fan Ye, Li Ya and Cheng Fei are all under 18 now. 'They all need to soak up some Olympic experience but I am sure they will be much better in 2008. They have worked hard and they are being groomed to win gold medals in Beijing,' said Huang. China's other top athletes such as superstar hurdler Liu Xiang will also be at the peak of his powers come 2008. The 21-year-old Shanghai native, who equalled the world record when winning gold in Athens, will be a much more experienced athlete. 'I believe more miracles will happen to me,' Liu said. 'I believe the Olympics in Beijing will be the most successful one ever staged. I will keep up the hard training. I will still be young. I will have reached my peak as an athlete by Beijing. I won't lose this opportunity of competing in my own country. 'I started the high jump, but I was encouraged to take up the hurdles. My coach turned me into a hurdler. This sport suits me the most. In China, we have a good relationship between coach and athlete. An athlete can be transformed into a champion. I wanted to prove that Asians too can run very fast,' said Liu. Other athletes like 19-year-old female hammer thrower Zhang Wenxiu should also pack a more powerful punch and reach somewhere near her peak come 2008. 'Zhang has emerged as China's best hammer thrower. She is still a teenager now but she is fully capable of winning a medal in Beijing. We expect her to do that when she matures both mentally and physically,' said China head athletics coach Feng Shuyong. Female weightlifters like Liu Chunhong, 21, and Li Zhuo 22, will still be in their mid-twenties come Beijing and they are likely to be gold medal prospects again. While China will be picture perfect for some sports, the same cannot be said for several other sports - particularly for table tennis - where the squad is expected to make radical changes before Beijing. Paddlers such as 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Games gold medallist Kong Linghui and female champion Wang Nan would be too old for Beijing and they are expected to be replaced by younger and hungrier players. The badminton squad in Athens was vastly different from Sydney and more changes are expected for Beijing as older players gradually make way for new athletes coming through the sports system.