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Host China powerless but not hopeless
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As the sole representative from Asia, the Chinese men's water polo team might look like a lamb among a group of wolves at the Beijing Olympic Games.

"They are all strong teams which we never beat," head coach Wang Minhui told Xinhua on Wednesday, referring to the other 11 teams mostly from Europe.

A total of 12 teams will compete for the water polo gold at the Beijing Olympics. Eight teams are from Europe, along with China, the United States, Canada and Australia.

"We are not at the same level. It's very difficult for us to get into the top ten," said Wang, who has led the national team since January, 2007.

Water polo has experienced ups and downs in China since it was introduced into the country in the 1950s. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, China ranked ninth. The result has not been bettered so far.

"In recent years, water polo is attracting more attention and having more funds from the government. But we still lag far behind those European teams," Wang said.

Citing the national team as an example, Wang said he had to form a team from fewer than 100 professional players. "How many professional players do those European countries have? Thousands or tens of thousands?"

Despite the lack of talents, Wang said his team is training hard for the Beijing Games. "The training focuses more on tactics. We hope good teamwork and tactics could make up for our weakness in the physical strength."

The Chinese water polo players are known for agility, but they usually cannot get the upper hand in physical confrontation.

Wang said year-long training has taken effect. "We could see obvious improvement at the preliminary rounds of the FINA Water Polo World Leagues in Japan in July."

The head coach said his team is now studying the competition video of other teams. "We know that we are weak, but we are not hopeless. We will not miss any chance in the competitions," he said.

Men's water polo became an Olympic event as early as 1900. Women's water polo was one of the new events at the Sydney 2000 Games. At the 2004 Athens Games, Hungary and Italy were crowned in the men's and women's water polo respectively.

(Xinhua News Agency July 30, 2008)

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