BEIJING, Nov 28 (Reuters) China will still be the team to beat at the Beijing Olympics, despite their worst performance in 14 years at the China Open last week, their head coach has said.
The hosts won just two of five titles at the Super Series tournament in Guangzhou prompting domestic media to question whether the country's long domination of the sport might be under threat less than a year before the 2008 Games.
''They still need some time to find their best form,'' said head coach Li Yongbo. ''But we still have a while before the Olympic Games and I have confidence.'' At the Super Series event, world number one Xie Xingfang was beaten in the women's singles, traditionally China's strongest event, by Malaysian Wong Mew Choo, who had also beaten world champion Zhu Lin and Olympic champion Zhang Ning.
The men's doubles and mixed doubles were captured by Indonesia with men's world number one Lin Dan and the world number two men's doubles pairing of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng suffering first-round exits.
China, which won three of the five gold medals in Athens, has dominated the sport since 2004, winning the Sudirman Cup, Thomas Cup and Uber Cup and claimed several international titles.
However they failed to win a title at the Philippine Open in July and at the Japan Super Series in September this year.
Li said the reason for their lack of recent success was fatigue caused by the players' increasingly busy schedule, an average of 19 events a year compared to about 10 previously.
''In order to qualify for the Beijing Games our target was to grab as many Olympic qualifying points as we can,'' he told China Sports Daily.
''So we are not encouraging our players to win the titles at the risk of being injured when they are tired.'' REUTERS RAR KP1210