China gearing up for golden Games in Tokyo

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Shi Yuqi of China competes during men's singles match against Momota Kento of Japan at the final between China and Japan of Sudirman Cup 2019 in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, May 26, 2019. Team China won 3-0. (Xinhua/Li Jundong)

China's badminton coach Zhang Jun has backed his charges to challenge for every badminton gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Speaking before China's superb Sudirman Cup victory over Japan in Nanning on Sunday, Zhang, the nation's doubles team head coach, told Xinhua that his squad is targeting a sweep of all five golds at the Tokyo Games, but added: "As for how many we'll actually get depends on the performance of our athletes."

Sunday's dominant display in Nanning, where Shi Yuqi stunned Japan's men's world champion Kento Momota (15-21, 21-5, 21-11) to complete a 3-0 victory at the mixed-team championship, bodes well for Chinese hopes.

And Zhang, also president of Chinese Badminton Association, is hopeful China's new breed can peak at just the right time to stun Japan on their home court, too.

"We have young athletes competing in every event, and I hope they will display their eagerness and fight their hardest for the gold medals in Tokyo," he said.

"We've got young players like Chen Yufei, He Bingjiao in the women's singles. They may not be at the highest level just yet, but they are really close."

Women's world No 3 Chen won this year's All England Open and shone again in Nanning, giving China a 2-0 lead in the Sudirman final with an engrossing 17-21, 21-16, 21-17 victory over world No 4 Akane Yamaguchi. Earlier, Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen beat Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe 21-18, 21-10 in the men's doubles.

Zhang reckons Li and Liu face a big task to upset Indonesia's world No 1 pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, and Japanese duo Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda, ranked second, in Tokyo.

"I still hope the men's pairs will surprise everyone for their competitiveness," said Zhang.

China has traditionally dominated the women's doubles, however a resurgent Japan now occupies three of the top four places in the world, and will be highly fancied to take gold in Tokyo.

"A victory over Japan in women's doubles would massively boost the morale of our team," Zhang said.

The mixed doubles is the only event in which China tops the world rankings, with Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong leading the way ahead of compatriots Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping.

However, Zhang was reluctant to predict a Chinese mixed-doubles gold in Tokyo, saying: "I have worries in this event. There's no sure bet during the Olympics."

And despite Shi's Sudirman heroics, Zhang reckons that established stars such as Chen Long and Lin Dan are still spearheading China's challenge in men's singles.

"Our young men's players still have a lot to learn to catch up with the best in the world," he said.

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