Aug 02, 2008 at 11:14am IST

Aussie chief says China will top gold medal tally

Sydney: Australia's Olympics chief John Coates has predicted that China will top the United States in the gold medal tally at the Beijing Games, a report said on Saturday.

The Americans have dominated the last three Olympics since finishing second to the former Soviet Union in Barcelona in 1992.

But the Australian Olympic Committee president believes China will emerge with the biggest number of golds at the 2008 Summer Games.

WELCOME: Ghana's Elvis Agbo poses with a group of Chinese girls who asked him to join their group photo when they met at Tiananmen Square.

"I expect China to win the gold medal tally," Coates told The Australian newspaper on Saturday.

"What we are seeing now leads me to think they can do it. I was at a rowing event where they won eight out of 14 medals - that is unheard-of," he said.

The United States has topped the medal count in 16 of the 26 Summer Olympics held.

Four years ago in Athens the US topped the gold medal tally with 36, China was second with 32, followed by Russia, on 27.

But Coates does not expect China will beat the US and win the overall medal count, as he believes the US is too strong in swimming and track and field.

Steve Roush, the US Olympic Committee chief of sport performance, is anticipating a highly-competitive battle in Beijing with China and Russia.

"Russia, China and the US are vying with the most legitimate shot at the top medal count at the Olympics. This is going to be a highly-competitive field," Roush said earlier this year.

"It has created an excitement around these Olympics that has been missing for a while."

Roush said China has targeted 119 medal opportunities for the 2008 Olympics in sports such as archery, shooting, cycling, rowing, paddling and women's wrestling and invested heavily in building talent in those areas.

China's great leap forward has been orchestrated by the old art of copying Western techniques and technology, The Australian said.

After Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Games in 2001, China began hiring Western coaches and pairing them with Chinese staff to develop new squads in sports where they had no expertise, including rowing and kayak canoeing.

Then as the Games approached, the Western coaches were sidelined and the local ones stepped forward to lead the Chinese athletes to gold.

Veteran Australian Olympic kayaker Clint Robinson said that was what happened in his sport.

In 2005, China hired "one of the best coaches in the world", former German team coach Joseph Capousek.

"In the last three years the Chinese have come up very quickly and just about beat the best crew in the world at the World Cup," Robinson said.

"They will be tough and it will be a real battle for all the canoeists against the Chinese."

Having served his purpose, Capousek was sacked a month ago and a Chinese coach heads the kayak team.

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