Don't buy China's bluff

ALISON KORN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Comments out of China last week were good for a laugh.

Chinese Deputy Minister of Sport Cui Dalin said that in Olympic terms, China still trailed both the U.S. and Russia, with little hope of catching those countries in the medal count -- and should instead aspire to beat the next lower tier of countries such as Japan, Germany, Australia and France.

"I believe our people will be satisfied as long as our athletes try their best," Cui said. "Gold medals aren't everything."

Yeah, right.

Chinese sports officials are being coy, according to Gardiner.

EARLY WARNING

"In the fine skill events they're going to do really well, like fencing, gymnastics, diving, table tennis," Alex Gardiner, COC senior director, Olympic programming-technical, said. "There's no doubt they're going to be good. In track and field they won't do that well. I think they're going to get close to the U.S. Are they going to overtake them (in the medal count)? I don't know. They're not going to be far off. Everybody's curious to see how big the juggernaut is."

Cui said China had also identified some talented individuals in sports like boxing, wrestling and rowing, but was still weak in team sports. He suggested the home crowd pressure might cause China's highly touted divers and shooters to crack.

Sounds like a warning to China's athletes delivered via the media.

The truth is that China in the last few years has created amazing depth in many sports they previously didn't do, such as trampoline, so if an athlete gets injured there are dozens more just as good, ready to step up.

That's according to Canada's top athlete in the sport, Karen Cockburn, a multiple world champion and Olympic medallist.

"They've basically taken over the spot of Russia in terms of domination," said Cockburn, who trained at China's national training centre on a visit there in April. "It was amazing. All new equipment, everything was so clean.

NOT SCARED

"They have these training centres in all their provinces and they almost have their own trampoline each, it's crazy. They have about 30 girls who can be on the team -- the amount of depth that they have is insane. We've never seen that before."

Not that Cockburn's scared -- she's still better than all of them.

And she doesn't expect to get back into their national training centre in the final weeks before the Olympics, either. China will be looking out for No. 1.

"I doubt they're going to let us train where their national team is training before the Olympics," Cockburn said. "It's better to stay at home where we know we're going to have great training. We'll just be going over right before. You can't count on them to have a facility for you. I think our federation is still scared to go earlier."


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