China: Paralympic powerhouse

2004-09-28 19:56
Athens - Runner-up to the United States by a handful of gold medals at the Athens Olympics, China was the big winner at the Paralympics.

As the quadrennial games for disabled athletes closed on Tuesday, China returned home with 63 gold medals, nearly twice as many as their closest rival, Britain, who won 35. With 46 silver and 32 bronze medals, China - whose capital of Beijing will host the next Olympics and Paralympics in 2008 - also won the most medals overall, 141, 41 more than second-placed Australia.

"I think first it is the Chinese government support," said Liu Guoyong, one of the delegation's leaders. "There are more athletes than in Sydney."

At the Olympics, China won 32 gold medals, three fewer than the Americans.

At the Paralympics, about 200 Chinese athletes competed in 11 sports, up from eight sports in Sydney. Liu said Chinese officials are aiming for participation in 19 out of 21 sports in Beijing.

That will involving training for sports virtually unknown in China such as wheelchair rugby, equestrian and sailing events.

"We have a lot of young athletes," Liu told The Associated Press.

The youngest athlete at the Games, Chinese swimmer Qing Qing Xu, turned 12 on Sunday.

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