Known as a pioneer of the "penhold" grip, Wang Hao was the first on the China team to use the reverse backhand technique which in table tennis makes him a magician of slight-of-hand. He frequently uses this technique to "loop drive" the ball over the net when receiving serves, or simply as a counter drive in a rally. This is just one of many tricks up Wang's sleeve, though it's one of the main reasons he's tipped to strike gold for China this year. Wangsnagged the silver medal in men's singles at the 2004 Summer Olympics and lost to Korean penhold-grip style player Ryu Seung Min. But, after winning the men's singles event at the 2006 Doha Asian games, Wang is now the world's highest ranked player. The 25-year-old started his professional training in 1992 and was picked for the men's national squad in 1998. Since then he has won dozens of national and Asian titles. Last year, Wang Hao won a 4-1 victory over his teammate Wang Liqin, the three-time world singles champion, at the men's singles semi-finals. While his coach, Lui Guoling, has every confidence in Wang's future Olympic performance he concedes, "German ace Timo Boll, former number one on the Men's World Ranking is China's major opponent." Early in March, China beat South Korea to claim the men's team title at the World Team Table Tennis Championships. This was a turning point for Wang to finally overtake his old rival from 2004, Ryu Seung Min. Guo Jingjing: Diving Diva of Spingboard
Famous for her diving and her dating, Guo Jingjing took up diving at the age of six and started training for competitive diving in 1988. In 1992, she was selected to dive for the national team and now ranks in the top-tier of the sport alongside her international rivals. Her current coach is Zhong Shaozhen.
In the 2004 Summer Olympics, Guo earned gold in the 3m women's synchronized springboard along with Wu Minxia before finally winning her first individual Olympic gold in the 3m women's springboard. The leading member of the national women's diving team after Fu Mingxia, her goal is to win at the Games in Beijing and then retire from diving immediately following the Games.
Guo's fame, unfortunately, extends to her off-the-board as well. Her affairs after the Summer Olympics have been the subject of media scrutiny. She is reputed to be diver Tian Liang's girlfriend, a relationship she demurely neither confirms nor denies.
Lin Dan: The Sultan of Swat
Famous for being spoiled, violent and the number one badminton player for two years running, Lin Dan is currently the most dominant singles badminton player in the world and China's top hope for gold at the Beijing Games.
Recently, he was embroiled in yet another controversy after the state press reported that he hit his coach, prompting a chorus of calls to punish the temperamental star. According to reports, Lin struck his coach, Ji Xinpeng, after losing his temper during a training match on April 8. But top sports officials said Lin, 24, was only involved in a verbal spat with his coach and no blows were struck.
Lin, famous for his public spats with the reigning Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, was also involved in an altercation with South Korea's Chinese head coach Li Mao in the Korean Open early this year.
The incident has caused uproar on the Internet, with sports fans calling Lin's behavior "intolerable." "The coaching team and chief officials have spoiled Lin. He should have been kicked out of the team earlier," said an anonymous fan to China Daily. Lin Dan regained his world No. 1 ranking in 2006, after a short period of being ranked behind Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia. Lin also won the 2007 World Badminton Championships in men's singles, beating Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the final to become the only 2nd player after Yang Yang to win the men's singles championship, after taking the gold medal in the world Badminton Championships. Among the tournaments he has won are the All England Open (2004, 2006 & 2007), the China Masters and the Thomas Cup in 2004 and 2006. Still, concerns about Lin's volitile personality make some commenters nervous about having him represent China. Who knows if fists and feathers will fly again? On the other hand, there is nothing more entertaining to watch than the spectacle of a testosterone-induced impromptu brawl. The anonymous concerned fan concludes: "What they care about is whether Lin will win gold.... If we send this kind of person to compete on the international stage, it's a shame for China's badminton." This gold medal may come with a side-order of lost face. Regardless, it's simply another one of many exciting subplots to what could be one of the most dramatic Olympics in recent memory.
That's all for now, folks. We hope you've enjoyed this short look at China's top Olympic medal prospects. Stay tuned to ChinaTravel.net for more Olympic coverage, and let us know what your thoughts are on the competition and the competitors.