Source: Xinhua

08-08-2008 07:37

Special Report:   2008 Beijing Olympic Games

BRUSSELS, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Dutch Olympic team faces tough challenges from South Korea, Spain, Hungary and Japan in its road to a top 10 finish in the medal tally, team chief Charles van Commenee told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"Our ambition is to finish in the top 10 in the medal tally. There are a few countries who are in the same bracket," the Dutch Chef de Mission said.

"They are of sort of similar strength. We hope to finish in the same bracket as them," he told Xinhua through telephone.

Van Commenee has high hopes for cycling, which in his opinion will probably bring home the most medals. The Dutch cycling team abounds with world class players, including Marianne Vos, who took the biking and road racing titles in 2006 world championships and became the track racing world champion in the points race this year.

"We are making a nine-medal shot (in cycling)," said van Commenee, also the technical director of the Dutch Olympic Committee.

Judo is another sport where the Dutch are likely to reap medals. The team boasts Ruben Houkes, the gold medalist in the men's under 60-kilo class at the 2007 World Judo Championships, and Mark Huizinga, who won one gold and two bronzes in the past three Olympic Games.

The Dutch are also strong in equestrian, field hockey, swimming and sailing. The Dutch women's hockey team is one of the favorites to took gold in Beijing, while Anky van Grunsven, 40, is looking to take her third gold in individual dressage in as many Olympic Games.

While aiming high, van Commenee is also realistic. "There is no use to compare ourselves with America or China," he said.

The high temperature and humidity in Beijing, coupled by jet lag, could pose a big challenge to Dutch athletes, van Commenee said.

"But we are prepared for that. Our players have been competing in China or its neighboring countries for at least twice in the past two years to prepare for the Olympics," he said.

Van Commenee is not in the least doubt that the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee will do a great job providing good service to international guests.

"With the help of the International Olympic Committee, everything will be at the best possible level," he said. "I'm not worried (about the food or transport) at all."

Recalling his stay in China in the early 1990s when he was coaching Chinese athletes, including shot putter Huang Zhihong, van Commenee said he was struck by the hospitality of the Chinese people.

"The people are very nice. I was treated like a king," he said.