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Korean coaches bring a magic touch
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China has combed the globe in search of talented coaches who can assist in the country's scramble to finish atop the medal table at the Beijing Olympics.

And of the dozens of foreign coaches China has invited to help its athletes prepare for the Games, South Koreans have made the most significant impact.

 Chinese women's field hockey coach Kim Chang-back from South Korea is hoping to lead the team to a medal at the Beijing Olympic Games.

These South Korean coaches are quite popular in China and have been widely praised because of the immediate improvements they have afforded Chinese athletes.

Kim Chang-back, a field hockey coaching guru, is one good example. Not much was said about him when he took the helm of China's women's field hockey team in 1999.

But the nation quickly took notice of Kim after he coached the team to qualify for its first-ever Olympic appearance just a few months after he took over the job. The team finished fifth in its Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games, quite a surprising result considering the sport's limited popularity in China.

His magic touch continued as China defeated Argentina in a penalty shootout in the title game of the 2002 Champions Trophy, its most significant championship to date.

The squad went on to beat four-time defending champion South Korea in a 2-1 victory at the 2002 Busan Asian Games, China's first-ever Asian title.

This sudden success made China a medal favorite for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Unfortunately, the team ran into a scrappy German side, which spoiled China's medal dreams with a tough semifinal upset.

Although the fourth-place finish was China's best-ever Olympic result, it was a huge disappointment for Kim, who was looking for that elusive Olympic gold to complete his championship trophy cabinet.

He seriously considered quitting his job with China. But the strong support from the Chinese federation and a burning desire to coach China to success at home in 2008 made him change his mind and he stayed on.

After a short setback in 2006, when China finished an embarrassing 10th place in the World Cup, Kim got the squad back on track.

In the recently concluded 2008 Champions Trophy, China finished fourth behind Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands, ranked world No 2, No 3 and No 1, respectively.

Boasting a team of talented youngsters and experienced veterans, world No 5 China will once again come into the Olympics as a medal favorite. Kim believes it will be his best opportunity to claim an Olympic gold medal.

"I think the ultimate goal for every coach is to win the Olympic gold," Kim said earlier this month. "We are preparing for that moment carefully and it becomes more and more accessible with the support of the Chinese people."

Inspired by success

Kim's success has inspired more of his compatriots to try their luck in China. Kim Sang-ryul, another field hockey coaching wizard, followed in Chang-back's footsteps and has reignited his career with China's men's side.

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