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Chinese Cagers Stun Olympic Basketball with Sweet Dream
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"Everyone has a dream," said Del Harris' American compatriot Martin Rood King.

"Never give up your dream," coach Harris told his Chinese basketball players.

Before Monday, few believed the Chinese men's basketball team would have a chance to beat Serbia and Montenegro to make the quarter-finals of the Athens Olympics.

"Italy smashes China's hope for quarter-finals," some Chinese media exploited the same headline on Tuesday.

To ordinary Chinese, who are generally more practical and less romantic than Westerners, beating the two-time defending world champion is like a "mission impossible" for their national team, who had lost three preliminary group matches by 25-plus points.

However, as an American, Harris, who became the first foreign coach of the Chinese basketball team in May, had stronger believesin "dreams".

"We are not going to give up our game against Serbia," said Harris after China's 89-52 loss to Italy on Saturday. "They might beat us forty, but we might beat them, who knows,"

"We did beat New Zealand, if you watched New Zealand's play today against Argentina (Argentina won 98-94), you may wonder how China beat them. It doesn't matter how, we did,"

"How are we going to beat Serbia? We don't matter how, but maybe we can."

"If we do, we probably go on to the next stage, so it's that crazy."

"We are not going to give up here, there is always a chance."

Yao Ming, who began to play for the NBA Houston Rockets since 2002, has put his weight behind Harris in holding the "dream" of the Chinese team.

"I told Del after yesterday's training that I had a feeling that we could win the game against Serbia," Yao said at the press conference after scoring 27 points in China's stunning 67-66 victory over Serbia and Montenegro on Monday.

"Because we had the best practice after we arrived at Athens and the players were with high spirit."

Calmly sinking four free throws in the last two minutes, Yao led the Chinese close to the "dream" as he awarded them a 65-63 lead with 28 seconds from the end before Du Feng made the "dream" come true by burying two from the line to make it 67-63 with 3.2 seconds to go.

"Our coach has been giving us a lesson in the past three months,a lesson of life," Yao said after the Asian champion's sweet revenge over Serbia and Montenegro for its 128-61 loss to the Europeans at the Atlanta Games eight years ago.

"You should never give up your dream," Yao said. "You should work hard every day and every minute to realize it."

"We have been dreaming of inheriting the 'spear' of elder Chinese basketballers who had made top eight at the Olympics, today we did it," Yao said.

Yao's teammate Liu Wei now had a new dream.

"Our coach had told us that the Olympics is a stage of miracles and today we made one by beating the world champion," Liu said.

"I don't want this to be an end, I hope the coach can guide us go further."

The Chinese will play European champion and Sydney Olympic bronze medalist Lithuania on Thursday. No matter what is the result, their dream will live.
(Xinhua News Agency  August 24, 2004) 

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