China won 63 medals at last year's Olympic Games, including 32 golds. In Beijing, they hope to do even better WITH THE EYES of the nation firmly fixed on the 2008 Olympics, China's athletes are intent on winning the country's biggest medal haul in front of a home crowd. In Athens last year, China celebrated their best Olympics performance to date with 32 gold medals, 17 silver and 14 bronze. The total medal haul of 63 bettered their record at the 2000 games in Sydney. In terms of gold, China was second only to the United States. The impressive performance in Athens came as a pleasant surprise because China had sent a youthful crop of athletes to Greece with the focus on grooming them for 2008. Publicly, officials have modest expectations for 2008, saying they would be content if China retains second place. But privately some admit the aim is to exceed the US total in Athens of 103 medals. Where could all those medals come from? China's main hopes are pinned on the trinity of table tennis, badminton and weightlifting, sports that the country dominates. After taking three table tennis titles in Athens, national team coaches are bullish about the prospects for Beijing, saying they see no reason why they cannot claim all five golds on offer. In weightlifting, the Chinese team took home five golds at both the Sydney and Athens games, and the feeling in Beijing is they should be able to pick up even more next time round. China's shuttlers won three gold medals in Athens and team coaches are confident they can at least retain those badminton crowns and put in a tough challenge for the other two at stake. In team sports, the women's volleyball team are strong contenders to retain the title they won in Greece, while the women's hockey team will be disappointed if they fail to strike gold. Led by Houston Rockets star Yao Ming , the men's basketball team consider themselves a good outside bet to take the title off Argentina, who were the surprise package in Athens. China's medal haul in Athens was unexpectedly bolstered by the four golds it took in shooting, but the pundits are not sure of a repeat performance, saying it is difficult to predict who will emerge on top in this discipline. There is similar uncertainty over gymnastics and diving, events that are in the hands of judges. Traditionally very strong in gymnastics, China only managed to take a gold in the pommel horse in Athens but expects to bounce back in Beijing. Huang Shanshan is the biggest hope. Her coach is confident she is ready to win in Beijing after taking a bronze on the trampoline last time around. China's divers put in a superb performance last summer, taking six golds. Guo Jingjing led the way with gold in the three-metre springboard and then paired up with Wu Minxia to win the synchronised dive title. But aside from concerns about unpredictable judges, there are worries that the divers have become victims of their success. Men's champion Tian Liang was kicked out of training camp recently, accused of not working hard enough and of being preoccupied with cashing in on his success. Pin-up girl Guo, meanwhile, gets to read about her love life in the tabloids on a regular basis. As things stand, if the team can match their record of six golds there will be a sigh of relief. Elsewhere in the pool, the nation's swimmers rarely excel, though Luo Xuejuan has a good chance of retaining her 100-metre breaststroke crown. Chen Zhong took one of China's two taekwondo golds in Athens. Her form is slipping, but her protege Liu Rui is expected to ensure that the title remains in China. The mainland took one gold in Athens in both judo and women's wrestling, and a bronze in boxing, and extra medals could well be picked up in any of these events. China has never been strong in sailing, but influential International Olympic Committee member He Zhanliang is behind a big push to rectify that. With a new batch of marathon runners clocking respectable times - the women's field led by Sun Yingjie - there are also hopes China can make a breakthrough in the road race. The Chinese field athletes have not found winning ways of late, but on the track they have two national heroes in Xing Huinan, who won the women's 10,000 metres, and Liu Xiang , who stole the show at the last Olympics by winning the 110-metres hurdles. Liu, in particular, has helped change perceptions in China about the ability of the nation's athletes. Before his historic victory there was a general feeling that Asians could never win the sprint events. His win showed that with enough training and dedication, anything can happen. Spurred on by his surprise success, hundreds of Chinese athletes are fired up for the landmark arrival of the Olympics in their country.