Despite home advantage, Chinese athletes will suffer at the Beijing Olympics because of pressure from their own fans, former world and Olympic table tennis champion Deng Yaping said on Tuesday.
Deng, a sporting icon who dominated women's table tennis during the 1990s, said it was "fair enough" for Chinese fans to demand more success than ever before from their team at the August 8-24 Games.
"I know a lot of the Chinese people... want Chinese athletes to win more medals, which is fair enough because most of the previous host countries have done a good job of winning more medals than ever before in their history," said Deng, who won four gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
But from the athletes' point of view, "the disadvantage is that they have great pressure," said Deng.
China finished a close second to the United States in the gold medal count at the 2004 Olympics and could emerge as the world's paramount sporting power at the Beijing Games.
"I was an athlete for 20 years, winning four Olympic golds, and I know that everybody wants to win, and it's not easy. You have to train very hard, be competitive, and the opponents are very hard as well," she said.
She advised Chinese athletes to stay focused on their goals and above all to work hard.
"Always you have to keep a balance," she said. "And you have to keep your confidence... through very hard training."
Deng, who also won 18 world titles and was ranked world number one from 1990 until 1997, is now a sports administrator in Beijing and a member of the Olympic organising committee.
She is deputy manager of the Olympic village, home to 16,000 athletes and officials during the Games.