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The secret behind Dragon's success

A China Daily report profiles eight of the 11 world class training facilities in China that have worked as a conveyor belt, churning out champions after champions at the Beijing Olympics.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2008 12:49 IST

For the uninitiated, Beijing Olympic so far has been a predictable story, climaxing with an author-backed Chinese walking away with the gold.

But few actually noticed the secret behind the Dragon's incredible success story.

China's amazing success at home has evoked reactions ranging from awe, admiration, surprise and even suspicion at their ability to produce world champions, that too at an alarming rate, and a 'China Daily' report reveals how they made it possible.

The daily profiles eight of the 11 world class training facilities in China that have worked as a conveyor belt, churning out champions after champions who went on to raise the bar for others.

At 2365m above sea level in the Qinghai province, Duoba has virtually been a cradle of world champions. The average annual temperature there is 6.5 centigrade, making it an ideal training hub for China's elite swimmers, shooters and track and field athletes.

Over the last two decades, Duoba has spawned scores of world champions and Olympic medallists, including the legendary long-distance "Ma's Team", which swept the 1999 World Championships in Stuttgart. The erstwhile military warehouse was taken over by the Qinghai Sports Bureau in 1982 and over the next two decades, more than USD 290 million has been spent to upgrade the facilities to a state-of-the-art training centre.

No wonder, Xing Huina, the 10,000m gold medallist at 2004 Athens Olympic attributed her success to Duoba's unique location.

Of late, archers, footballers, hoopsters, shuttlers, spikers, paddlers, judokas and grapplers are also honing their skill there.

No less impressive are the facilities at the Qiandao Lake, tucked deep in the centre of the eponymous resort.

Rowing coach Zhang Guiting discovered the area and decided to train the rowers there in variable weather conditions.

Some 50 million yuan was invested to give it a face-lift and the result was soon for all to see when two inmates Meng Guanliang and Yang Wenjun won China's first ever canoeing gold in Athens.

In case of Jinjiang, the expatriates donated generously to raise enough money to build the training base in 2002, which was annus horibilis for the Chinese shuttlers.

The team coach was impressed by the facilities but the SARS epidemic forced them to prolong their stay there, stretching the original 40-day schedule to 10 more days and people claim it helped China regain its table tennis supremacy, winning men's and women's singles and women's doubles at the 2003 World Championships.

And if the Anup Sridhars and Saina Nehwals are baffled by the agility of their Chinese opponents, it is because the paddlers here practice in a mammoth pool of quartz sand, defying the drag which makes them such fast on court.

Like Jinjiang, the five million yuan training base at Zhanzhou to did not cost a penny to the government as each citizen there donated one yuan to build the volleyball stadium, that too after the team had recorded its most disappointing performance in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Two decades back, the same citizens had joined hands to build a bamboo-framed stadium for the women's team, a spirit that is yet to find a match in India.

Celebrated spiker Lang Ping, who later went on to coach the US team, said every player were grateful to the people of the city for their unflinching support to the side.

Zhengding has been the Shaolin temple of China's ping pong dynasty, stemming from a 70-year-old physical education teacher's magnificent dream.

What started as a Table Tennis school with just 12 students turned out to be a national training base.