Rowing - Chinese day of mixed fortunes in rowing

BEIJING (Reuters) - China made a bold bid for gold on the world rowing stage on Saturday but had to be satisfied with just one silver medal despite years of intensive preparation for the Olympics on home water.

Silver medallists Wu You and Gao Yulan of China, gold medallists Georgeta Andrunache and Viorica Susanu of Romania and bronze medallists Yuliya Bichyk and Natallia Helakh of Belarus are seen at Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park north of Beijing August 16, 2008. REUTERS/Aly Song

“I think Chinese rowing has made rapid progress in recent years but we are lagging behind in terms of experience,” said Wu You, who won silver in the women’s pair with Gao Yulan. They had been among the favourites to win.

The pair said they had always been eyeing the gold but had been “a bit conservative” in the final.

“We hope our team mates can outperform us in the races ahead and we’ll aim for the gold in the next Games,” Wu said.

The day was a bitter disappointment for China’s Zhang Xiuyun, who just missed out on a medal in the women’s single sculls.

Silver medallist in the double in 1996, she had caught the eye in the earlier rounds, winning her semi-final to thunderous home applause.

For Zhang, a 32-year-old mother who missed the last two Olympics after suffering heart problems, just being at her home Games was the ultimate achievement. “It was not bad. After missing two games, simply taking part in these ones has realised my dream,” she said after finishing 4th.

The impressive development of the Chinese squad, after it failed to win a medal of any colour in Athens four years ago, follows the recruitment of experienced foreign coaches and hefty investment in the sport.

Rival rowers and coaches have praised the Chinese team but wondered whether the home course could in fact put the rowers under more pressure.

Tian Liang and Li Qin also came heartbreakingly close in the women’s double sculls, ending up in 4th place.

“Everybody in the team sweated to get onto the podium,” Tian said after a day of mixed Chinese fortunes.

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