Taiwan’s Tokyo Olympics team takes off for Japan with hopes of gold

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Taiwan’s Summer Olympics team boarded a charter flight for Tokyo on Monday in preparation for Friday’s start to a competition taking place in unprecedented quarantine conditions.

Among the island’s gold medal hopefuls are Kuo Hsing-chun, who is competing in the women’s weightlifting, and Wen Tzu-yun, a leading prospect in the women’s karate.

Seeing off the 134-member delegation at Taipei Songshan Airport, Premier Su Tseng-chang said the island was behind them and they would have a hero’s welcome on their return.

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“It is one’s biggest glories to be able to stand tall in the Olympic [arena] and I am sure all of you are ready for this,” Su said.

“I wish you all to get the best results, but don’t feel any pressure.”

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The 68 athletes in the delegation will take part in 18 sports at the Games, from archery to taekwondo.

Two last-minute inclusions are Hsieh Yu-chieh and Hsu Chieh-yu, who were notified by organisers on Friday that they had qualified for the women’s tennis doubles, according to the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee.

Kuo, 27, Taiwan’s top woman weightlifter, is a strong prospect in the 59kg division and said she was in good form.

“I believe I am at the peak of my weightlifting [career] because I can realise the best technique during competition and I have also learned how to relax after competition,” the four-time World champion, two-time Universiade champion and Asian Games champion said.

Another gold medal hopeful is Tai Tzu-ying, the world’s top-ranked female badminton player, who will be competing in her third consecutive Olympics.

Dogged by tough draws and injury woes, she was knocked out in the round of 16 in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 26-year-old told the semi-official Central News Agency that she was better positioned to do well this year than she was in Rio and London in 2012, when she was also knocked out before reaching the semi-finals.

Tai has the record for the number of weeks as world No 1 in singles and clinched her third singles title at the All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham last year after winning the tournament in 2017 and 2018. She had also won three BWF World Tour Finals, the agency said.

Wen Tzu-yun has again won a spot to compete in the women’s karate Kumite 55kg class. She qualified last year and had to do so again after the Games were postponed.

“If you fight hard enough for your dreams, they will come true,” the 26-year-old said on her Facebook page.

Other medal hopefuls include Lee Chih-kai who won a gold at the artistic gymnastics event during the 2018 Asia Games in Jakarta.

A 25-member medical team was also on the plane to Tokyo on Monday.

According to the Chinese Taipei committee, in addition to the daily tests, athletes have to report their temperature and overall health condition to the team each day via a smartphone app.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the Taiwanese athletes are required to leave Japan no more than 48 hours after the completion of their competition or when they are eliminated, according to the Games organisers.

Taiwan won one gold and two bronze at Rio and its best result remains the two gold, two silver and one bronze the team claimed in Athens in 2004.

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