18 July, Beijing
China will send 416 sportspersons, including 35 Olympic champions, to the Rio Games in August as the Chinese delegation was unveiled at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing here on Monday.
Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) leader Liu Yunshan told the Rio-bound athletes and coaches to spread the Olympic spirit of unity, friendship and progress at the Games, during a meeting which was held prior to the launch ceremony and also attended by Chinese vice premier Liu Yandong, reports Xinhua.
Liu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, encouraged the athletes to “plant the seeds of friendship and become Chinese people’s ambassadors”.
The delegation includes 160 men’s athletes and 256 women competing in 210 events over 26 sports at the Games which open on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro. Among them 35 are Olympic champions including 27 from the London Olympics.
“This is the largest ever Olympic delegation China has sent overseas,” said Cai Zhenhua, deputy director of China’s General Administration of Sport, adding that the delegation has 711 members including 29 foreign coaches.
Swimmer Ai Yanhan, 14, will compete in the women’s 200 metres freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay as the youngest member of the delegation, while Beijing Olympics shooting champion Chen Ying, 38, will be the oldest athlete who is on her fourth Olympic trip.
China is expecting a haul of gold medals from traditionally strong sports such as table tennis, badminton, gymnastics, weightlifting, shooting and diving.
However, swimming and athletics are attracting just as much attention as China is on the rise in these two sports.
Olympic and world freestyle champion Sun Yang, who looks to defend his 1,500m title in Rio, stands out as one of the most high-profile athletes in the Chinese legion while sharing his limelight is new sensation Ning Zetao who became the first Asian man ever to win the 100m freestyle at the world championships in Kazan last year.
“I feel I am in good shape now,” said Ning, 23. “I am honoured to represent China.”
China is also hoping to make some impression in athletics following the success at last year’s world championships at the “Bird’s Nest” national stadium in Beijing.
“We have high expectations for these Games, especially after the Beijing athletics world championships. The results at the worlds give us confidence,” said high jumper Wang Yu who is a graduate school student at China’s elite Tsinghua University.
Wang’s team-mate Zhang Guowei took a silver at the Beijing worlds, the best result Chinese men’s high jumpers ever had, while the team formed by Su Bingtian, Zhang Peimeng, Mo Youxue and Xie Zhenye clinched the men’s 4x100m relay silver medal to rewrite the history of Chinese and Asian athletics.