China says expects tough challenge for medals at Rio
BEIJING (Reuters) - China expects strong pressure to win medals at next month's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from teams which have begun to better challenge its dominance in sports like badminton, state media said on Tuesday.
China topped the medals table at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and came second at the 2012 London Olympics behind the United States, events where Chinese wins were celebrated with an outpouring of national pride, something likely to be repeated in Brazil.
But China is trying to keep a level head.
Sports minister Liu Peng said China's delegation had to "keep a clear head, calmly analyse and correctly grasp the serious situation of the Rio Olympics ahead of us", the official China Sports Daily reported.
The English-language newspaper said China will face a tougher time in Brazil to keep up their dominance in sports like gymnastics and badminton as other countries have improved their abilities.
"However, we should try our hardest to make progress in high-profile and mass popular events such as swimming, track and field and collective ball games in Rio, to inspire greater public participation in sports," Liu said, according to the China Daily.
China will send 416 athletes to Rio de Janeiro next month, its largest overseas delegation in Olympic history.
Liu said they are also taking a zero-tolerance approach to doping and have taken "all necessary measures" to ensure that the athletes are clean.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)