China unveils Olympic team to Rio
China unveiled its Olympic team on Monday made up of 416 athletes to the Rio Olympic Games next month, with star swimmer Ning Zetao included in the swimming team.
Ning, who rose to fame after winning the 100-meter freestyle gold at the FINA World Championships last year, was reportedly to be cut from the team for undertaking too many commercial engagements.
The Henan swimmer became a household name in China after winning gold at the 2014 Asian Games. The Rio Games will be Ning’s first Summer Olympic Games.
Reigning world champion Sun Yang also looks to defend his 1,500-meter freestyle gold medal.
China will compete in 26 of the 28 sports at the Games, as its handball and rugby sevens teams failed to qualify.
The star-studded squad includes 35 former Olympic champions, spearheaded by veteran shooters Du Li, and diver Wu Minxia, who all competed at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
Ai Yanhan, 14, will compete in the women’s 200-meter freestyle and 4x200-meter freestyle relay as the youngest member of the Chinese contingent, while Beijing 2008 shooting champion Chen Ying, 38, will be the ?oldest athlete who is on her fourth Olympic trip.
Traditionally, China dominate table tennis, badminton, diving, gymnastics, shooting and weightlifting at the Olympic Games.
Badminton great Lin Dan will also compete in his fourth Olympic Games, seeking to defend his title and bag his third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
The Chinese men’s basketball team is also seeking to make a breakthrough in Rio, but they face strong teams in the group stage, with the US, European powerhouses France and Serbia and South American giants Venezuela and Argentina.
The women’s volleyball team, which qualified for Rio after winning the World Cup in Japan with volleyball legend Lang Ping at the helm, is also eyeing another Olympic title.
They won gold in Athens and bronze in Beijing before dropping to fifth in London.
Lang was chosen the head coach in 2013, with the country hoping the "Iron Hammer" would revive the team.
Five-time gymnastics world champion Zou Kai failed to qualify due to poor form from injuries. Long jumper Li Jinzhe will likewise skip the Games after a disappointing season last year.
At London 2012, China grabbed 38 golds, 27 silvers and 23 bronzes, ranking second in the overall medal table behind the US.
Rio is the first South American city to host the Summer Games. The lead-up to the Games has been marked by political controversies - including the corruption and instability of the country’s federal government, as well as health concerns over the Zika virus.