Great haul of China: More than 400 athletes to chase gold in Rio
Team is second largest ever but the United States is likely to top medal table
China is expecting to send their largest squad – outside of their own Olympics in 2008 – to the Rio Games this summer witha gold harvest targeted in six major events, a senior sports official said on Friday.
The final squad size going to Brazil would be more than 400 athletes with 70 days left before the Summer Games, said Liu Aijie, deputy director of Athletic Sports Department at the State General Administration of Sports.
“The number is changing as the qualification process for some sports is still ongoing,” said Liu. “We just learned our women’s quadruple sculls made it in the final qualification regatta in Lucerne.
“We sent 396 athletes to London four years ago and are hoping to send over 400 this time but the final number cannot be confirmed at this stage.”
China will be represented in 26 sports out of a total of 28 in Rio. The sports missing are handball and rugby sevens.
At the 2012 London Games, China won 38 gold medals to finish second in the table behind the United States (46). In Beijing, China were supreme with 51 golds to 36 for the US.
Liu believes the US will keep their number one position because of the impact of professional sports in America, while China and Russia would have to battle it out for second place.
“The United States is still the most powerful nation and Russia has made marked improvement after the London Games,” said Liu. “Other nations such as Great Britain, Japan, Germany and South Korea are also competitive and we cannot take them lightly.”
China will again rely heavily on the performance of six sports – table tennis, badminton, gymnastics, shooting, diving and weightlifting.
They swept all four gold medals in table tennis and five in badminton in London, while diving and gymnastics collected six and five respectively. Weightlifting contributed five, along with two from shooting.
Swimming was also a target after Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen starred in London, while Liu said they were hoping for a breakthrough on the athletic field, 12 years after hurdler Liu Xiang attained cult status when becoming the first man from China to win a gold medal in track and field.
“We have produced some good results in the men’s sprinting events recently and it would be great if we could reach the final in the men’s 100 metres,” he said.
“At the last world championships in Beijing, our men’s 4x100 metre relay team also won a medal and they have the quality to reach the podium in Rio.
“Our women’s throwing events are also at a very high level and coupled with the men’s and women’s race walk, we hope China athletics can have a new breakthrough following the retirement of hurdler Liu Xiang.”
Sprinter Su Bingtian made it to the men’s 100m semi-finals at the 2012 Olympics and is the only man of Asian descent to run under 10 seconds when he clocked 9.99 last year.
He also steered the 4x100m relay team to a silver medal at last year’s world championships in Beijing where they also set an Asian record 37.92 in the heats.