UNDER PRESSURE: China will be hard pressed to match 2008 high on home soil
LONDON: DOMINANT China put Asia on top of the world at the Beijing Olympics but the pressure is on as they bid to repeat the feat away from home.
When London 2012 gets into full swing on Saturday, China will be the nation to beat after they overhauled the United States at the summit of the medals table for the first time.
China were aided by home advantage, massive funding and a giant team in 2008 but they now face the challenge of staying ahead of the pack in very different conditions on foreign soil.
They highlighted a positive Games for Asia-Pacific countries with Australia, South Korea and Japan also in the top 10 and India winning their first ever individual gold medal.
This year, China have slashed their team to 396, down from 639 in Beijing, who are now preparing at various venues around Europe.
According to the China Daily, 110m hurdles star Liu Xiang was forced to leave Britain and train in Germany this month after a spell of cold, wet weather.
"Other of China's teams have also chosen to move their base thanks to London's cold weather, so Liu Xiang is not the only one," Liu's coach Sun Haiping was quoted as saying.
There are also concerns over China's gymnasts after former world and Olympic champion Teng Haibin hurt his forearm while training in Northern Ireland, following an earlier injury to team captain Chen Yibing.
"Once one bad thing happens, many other things become more difficult," head coach Huang Yubin said in the China Daily. "Now, I'm very worried about the Games."
However, other competitors seem happy with their preparations and it would be a major surprise if China did not at least finish in the top two for the third consecutive time.
Liu is second fastest in the world over 110m hurdles this year, putting him in the frame to challenge for gold eight years after his victory in Athens.
China are likely to win all four table tennis gold medals and have a strong chance of sweeping the eight diving categories, alongside the badminton titles. They are also world-beaters in weightlifting and shooting.
Australia are hoping their swimmers, spearheaded by sprint sensation James Magnussen, and cyclists can put them back in the top five after they dropped two places to sixth in Beijing.
Japan are targeting a record haul of more than 16 gold medals to boost their bid to host the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
South Korea have a more modest goal of 10 gold medals and a top-10 finish, while India have high hopes of making further progress after shooter Abhinav Bindra's breakthrough in winning the country's first individual gold in 2008. AFP