Asia looks to be a major force in 2008
Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 10:09PM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 10:09PM
ATHENS, Aug 29 (Reuters) -- Strong medal winning performances by China and Japan in Athens herald a powerful showing by Asian nations at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said on Sunday.
"This is really the Games where Asia has awakened and I believe that this is a very strong sign that Asia will be at full strength for the Beijing Games in four years," Rogge told a news conference on the final day of the Athens Games.
Rogge hailed the "major progress of China," who had captured their best ever haul of 31 gold medals by Saturday and held second place in the medals table throughout the Games. China won 28 golds in Sydney, but set a modest target of 20 for Athens.
China's record and the 16 titles won by Japan in their best Games in 40 years gave the world's most populous continent two of the top five spots in the medals table. South Korea were 12th with eight golds, with their women archers dominating the sport.
The Chinese held on to their traditional sporting strongholds of diving, winning six out of eight golds on offer, and table tennis, capturing three out of four titles.
They also took three of the five badminton golds on offer and cleaned up in weightlifting and shooting.
The next Games hosts also advertised their increasing breadth of sporting prowess by taking golds in swimming, athletics, volleyball and rowing.
Liu Xiang matched a world record and set an Olympic one in the men's 110 metres hurdles, declaring he had shown Asians could run as fast as Europeans and North Americans and vowing to "create more miracles in the future."
When Xing Huina won gold in the women's 10,000 metres, astonished Ethiopians she passed in a last-gasp dash said they had assumed they were a full lap ahead of the Chinese runner.
National Basketball Association (NBA) leading light Yao Ming, China's most famous athlete, said his country's overall performance was "partly thanks to the effort of the athletes, and partly thanks to luck as well."
But Chinese officials say luck smiles on the well prepared.
"Some people say this gold medal fell from the sky," said team manager Duan Shijie after shooter Jia Zhanbo won the men's 50-metre rifle three-positions title when the American leader in the tournament shot at the wrong target.
"But Jia never would have been there to win had he not prepared carefully," said Duan.
Rogge lauded the "extraordinary success" of Japan, led by their men's gymnastics team, women's marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi, double gold medallist breaststroke swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and judokas who harvested a record eight gold medals.
The Japanese tripled their haul of titles at Sydney by winning 16 gold medals -- matching their high of 16 golds at Tokyo in 1964.
"This is a great boost to the Japanese Olympic movement and gives courage to all athletes in Japan," said team official Tsunekazu Takeda.
He said Japan had in just three years met a 10-year target set in 2001 to double their medal total.
Rogge said the "excellent scores" of South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia were further signs Asian nations were a force to bde reckoned with in the Olympics.
South Korea won eight golds, Thailand three, Taiwan two golds and Indonesia one.
South Korea's women archers won an 11th straight title in Athens, completing a 20-year streak unmatched in any other sport at the Olympics.
Beijing will be the third city in Asia to host the Summer Games, following Tokyo in 1964 and Seoul in 1988.
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