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Hu pays a morale-boosting visit as Games near
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Chinese President Hu Jintao talks with one of the gymnasts at the gymnastics stadium on Wedneday. He paid a morale-boosting visit to domestic athletes busy training for the upcoming Olympic Games, saying he was looking forward to their good performances. (Xinhua Photo)

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday paid a morale-boosting visit to domestic athletes busy training for the upcoming Olympic Games, saying he was looking forward to their good performances.

With 16 days to go until the Games opening ceremony, Hu, accompanied by Vice President Xi Jinping, went to the stadiums of the Training Bureau of the General Administration of Sport in southern Beijing in the morning. He watched training programs of athletes in gymnastics artistic, synchronized swimming, table tennis, weightlifting, basketball and volleyball.

"Your moves are clear-cut and very elegant. I wish you success at the Games," he told 16-year-old He Kexin after she performed a set of routines with perfect technique on the uneven bars at the gymnastics stadium. The teenager won two World Cup titles earlier this year.

Hu expressed his hope that the gymnasts and coaches would train hard with high efficiency to improve their competition skills.

"Keep a cool state of mind and achieve outstanding results at the Games," he told them.

The training bureau boasts 15 stadiums where athletic teams in 11 events from 14 countries were training for the Games.

At the basketball stadium, the president was attracted by the swift moves by the players of the men's national basketball team. He voiced concerns for star player Yao Ming who suffered a foot injury in February.

"The whole nation is very concerned about your foot. How is it going now?" Hu asked the star center with the Houston Rockets.

"It's okay," Yao replied. The NBA star played his second match after coming back from injury on Saturday in the eastern city of Hangzhou, scoring 16 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes against Angola.

Hu told Yao he needed to be more careful in future training and matches.

He expressed high hopes for the men's national basketball team, which also includes NBA stars Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian.

"We Chinese people pay lots of attention to basketball and expect your superb performance in matches. I hope you can show your best at the Games," Hu told them.

At the swimming stadium, Hu watched the performance of synchronized swimmers and extended gratitude to head coach Masayo Imura from Japan.

"We are here today to give a boost to your spirits," Hu told the swimmers. "We are happy to learn that you have improved rapidly under the guidance of head coach Masayo Imura. I propose that we give a big applause to her to express our sincere thanks."

The 58-year-old coach, dubbed the "godmother" of Japanese synchronized swimming, started coaching her country's synchronized swim team in 1978. She helped her swimmers to eight Olympic medals over the past 30 years.

Imura started coaching in China after the 2006 Doha Asian Games in which China dethroned long-time Asian champion Japan in both the duet and team competitions.

Last month, she reiterated her hopes for medals at the Beijing Olympics, saying Chinese swimmers would help present a modern and dynamic China with their performance.

Hu praised Imura for her coaching and role in promoting sports exchanges and friendship between China and Japan.

"I believe that China's synchronized swimming team will give an outstanding performance at the Games under the guidance of Ms. Masayo Imura."

Imura pledged she would do her utmost to lead China's team to achieve good results.

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