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Chinese athletes eye more than gold
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China will send 332 athletes to the Beijing Paralympic Games, its largest team ever and more than any other competing country.

Wang Xinxian, chef de mission of the delegation, said yesterday he was optimistic the team will top the medals table.

China has participated in the previous six Summer Paralympic Games since 1984. At the 2004 Athens Games, it won 63 golds and ended top of the table.

"Encouraged by the impressive performance by China's athletes at the Olympics, the Paralympians will try their utmost to exceed their achievements in Athens," Wang told China Daily yesterday at the Main Press Center.

"We should learn from the Olympic delegation and try to do better in Beijing."

This year's Paralympics will be the largest in the event's history, featuring 4,000 athletes from 148 countries and regions. Some 6,300 journalists from around the globe will cover the world's second-largest sporting event.

China is strong in athletics, swimming, table tennis and powerlifting, Wang said.

Its athletes will compete in all 20 sports at the Games, with the country making its debut in equestrian, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, rowing, sailing, boccia, goalball, seven-a-side soccer and five-a-side soccer.

"But we are not just chasing gold medals. We hope to get more recognition for our athletes and more understanding and support from society," Wang said.

"The most important gold medal for the people with disabilities is confidence."

China's Paralympic athletes include farmers, students and government workers, and their ages range from 15 to 51.

All of them were selected from the National Games for People with Disabilities and have passed the qualifications of the International Paralympic Committee and its affiliated sports federations, Jia Yong, director of the sports department of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, said.

As they have trained with national teams, the government will cover all their expenses, and outstanding athletes will not only be financially awarded but receive some welfare, such as free vocational training, he said.

(China Daily September 5, 2008)

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