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ARKIB : 20/08/2002

All-star cast lines up in Singapore Open

SINGAPORE Aug 19 - An all-star cast lines up at the Singapore Open starting Wednesday with the region's top shuttlers using the tournament to prepare for the Asian Games.

Chinese team coach Li Yong Bo, who has brought a full-strength squad, said it would prove an ideal tournament to launch their assault on the Asian Games in the South Korean port city of Busan starting next month.

``In China, our number one goal is an Olympic medal. The Asian Games are second,'' Li said.

``So you can imagine how important this tournament is for us because we have been in camp since mid-June. I want the players to go out and try their best,'' he said.

``If we don't win any titles, I will not be too disappointed.''

Li said the Malaysians, South Koreans and Japanese were also all focusing on the Asian Games.

The US$170,000 Singapore Open features a stellar cast which includes the world's top 10 players.

In action will be China's Xia Xuanze, Lin Dan and Bao Chun Lai, Indonesians Taufik Hidayat and Marleve Mainaky, South Koreans Lee Hyun Il and Shon Seung Mo and Dane Kenneth Jonassen.

Top seeded Xia, who lost his world number one ranking to Malaysian Wong Choong Hann last week, will be attempting to defend his crown.

Wong is seeded second followed by China's Lin Dan who will face 2001 All-England champion Pullela Gopichand of India.

Gopichand is unseeded here due to a string of weak performances over the last 12 months.

On the women's side, current All England champion Camilla Martin of Denmark said her stiffest competition would come from the Chinese.

``I have always had trouble with the Chinese. They are so good and there are so many of them,'' the 29-year-old said.

``But with experience I have learnt to take one match at a time. That is what I did with success at the All England. But the strong Chinese presence here will definitely make things pretty hot for me.''

Defending champion Zhang Ning said she was relishing the opportunity to defend her title.

``Last year I beat Camilla here and hope to beat her again if we both get to the semi-finals. She is really good in the All England but in Asia she somehow loses her touch,'' Zhang said. - AFP

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