Chinese athletes arrived in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo which will be their training base for the next 8 days before travelling 400km northeast to Rio de Janeiro for the coming Rio Olympic Games. The delegation comprises 416 athletes of whom 36 are Olympic champions.
They had demonstrated their strength in athletics by winning 51 gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and 38 in London in 2012. For Rio, Chinese Olympians are set to face tougher days in maintaining dominance in traditionally strong events, including badminton and gymnastics, since other countries have improved at such sports.
However, much is desired from their women’s hockey team in Rio under the tutelage of head coach Cho Myung-Jun who has filled the gap following the departure of fellow South Korean Kim Chang-Back.
Kim was instrumental in China’s Champions Trophy gold medal victory in 2002 and a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Speaking to ChinaDaily.com.cn, Cho said: “My goal is to reach the semi-finals in Rio and maybe fight for a medal,” said the 45-year-old who many believe is a far strict coach that his predecessor when it comes to discipline. “I know it will be difficult for us to achieve the goal but this team is in a very good form and without any injury problems right now.”
The Korean believes his players will handle the pressure well in Rio against high-ranking opposition in this Summer Olympic Games. China has been drawn in Group A alongside reigning Olympic champions and World No 1 Netherlands, New Zealand (4), Korea (8), Germany (9), and Spain (14).
They open their campaign against Germany (Aug 7), Spain (Aug 8), Netherlands (Aug 10), Korea (Aug 12) and complete the group stage match against New Zealand on Aug 13.
The Asian country had the second-highest number of podium finishes at the London Olympics with 88, including 38 gold medals. The United States, which had 530 athletes, led the medals tally with 103 medals, among which 46 were gold medals.
With Cho’s determination for a podium finish, the Chinese women, who are ranked sixth in the FIH World Ranking list, will be no pushovers in Rio.
China’s rise in hockey began at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when they finished fifth against powerful and dominant oppositions, missed a bronze in Athens four year later by ending in fourth position and dropped to sixth spot in London 2012 after going down 0-2 against Australia in the classification match.
In the group stage in London 2012, the Chinese defeated Korea 4-0 in their opening match and drew 0-0 against Belgium, lost 0-1 against eventual champions the Netherlands, defeated Great Britain 2-1 before succumbing to a 0-1 defeat against neighbours Japan.
Liu Peng, China’s Sports Minister and the delegation chief, stressed that China’s athletes, including the women’s hockey team, should work harder to achieve better results.
“We should try our hardest to make progress in high-profile and mass popular events such as swimming, track and field and collective ball games in Rio, to inspire greater public participation in sports,” Liu said.
To find out more about the Olympic hockey events there, click here.