The host country of the 2008 Olympic Games is working diligently to assure that its own national anthem will be played in the Laoshan velodrome at least once during the Games' track cycling events, but the challenge for the Chinese team started two years ago, when the UCI decided to slash the women's 500m time trial from the Olympic schedule.
The Chinese women have been the country's best hope to challenge the world's best on the track, specifically in the sprint and 500. Jiang Jonghua provided the country's only cycling medal in Athens when she took silver in the 500. These women now have just one chance to achieve Olympic gold after the time trial's demise.
The China Daily recently spotlighted a few of the country's contenders for medals in 2008, with sprinter Shuang Guo as the main focus of attention for the Games. "My goal with Guo is to win the gold medal in women's sprint at the Beijing Games," said Chinese track cycling coach Daniel Morelon, the Frenchman who was hired to build the Chinese team up to medal contenders. "I am sure she is one of the top five riders in the world, so at least she has to win a medal."
Guo, a 20-year-old from Inner Mongolia is one of the few Chinese cyclists to have trained outside of Asia, having gone to the UCI's World Cycling Training Center in 2002 to train with another French coach, Sebastien Dulcus. "I won't stop at where I am, I always need to become stronger," said Guo. "I am very lucky compared with other team-mates because I have the chance to go to Europe and feel the environment there.
Guo showed her mettle at the 2006 World Championships in Bordeaux, where she took the bronze medal, beating French woman Clara Sanchez, and went on to win two golds in the Doha Asian Games. She went even better in the 2007 Championships in Mallorca, taking silver in the sprint and the keirin.
With qualifications for the Olympics tied to the World Cup rounds, Guo has her sights set on racking up points to ensure that she will be chosen for the Chinese team. "Now I am not thinking about a gold medal or any distant target like that. I just want to collect as many Olympic points as possible and make sure I can compete in the Olympic velodrome."
Guo is not the country's only hope, as its women's team sprint squad took bronze in the Beijing World Cup, showing its depth of talent with Lulu Zheng.
"For the position they are in, China is doing well," Morelon said. "China has no national structure below the senior level, which is totally different from that of France where the best riders are selected when they are in their early teens and sent to compete in the World Junior Championships.