By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – As the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Beijing Olympics ticks by, China will seek to maintain their sporting pre-eminence at the Jakarta Asian Games and top the medal table for a 10th time in succession.
Since the 1982 Games in New Dehli, Chinese athletes have consistently outshone their regional rivals while setting new benchmarks.
On home soil in Guangzhou in 2010, China narrowly missed out on a breaking through the 200-gold medal barrier, but the 199 golds and 416 medals in all remains an Asian Games record for a single nation.
China may struggle to surpass those benchmarks but will expect to dominate as usual.
At Incheon four years ago, China claimed the largest medal hauls in athletics, cycling, diving, gymnastics, rowing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, weightlifting and the martial art of wushu.
Sprint duo Su Bingtian and Xie Zhenye are expected to lead China’s charge on the track, with the pair pushing each other to new heights so far this season.
Twice in the space of eight days in June, Su recorded times of 9.91 seconds in the 100 metres to match the Asian record he shares with Qatar’s Femi Ogunode, while Xie has also dipped under 10 seconds with a 9.97 run this season.
China’s supremacy is under threat in certain disciplines, with Japan and South Korean table tennis closing the gap.
They have also brought a relatively inexperienced team, leaving multiple Olympic champions Ma Long, Xu Xin and Ding Ning out of the squad.
“All of the five female players we have for the Asian Games are qualified enough and boast great skills,” women’s head coach Li Sun told the China Daily.
“The Asiad is also a test for our young players to see if they can handle the pressure without the help of top players like Ding Ning.”
China will hope their women’s volleyball team can reassert themselves after picking up silver at Incheon behind South Korea.
“We gather all the force we have to prepare for the Asian Games,” said Lang Ping, who coached the team to gold in Rio.
“To win the Asian Games is not easy, and will require a tough fight. No matter who will go, we all have to play our best games to win.”
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by Ian Ransom)