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Zhou Peng ready for return trip to Olympics
BEIJING (2016 Rio Olympics) - China have tempered their expectations ahead of the 2016 Olympics, despite the success of the national team at last year's FIBA Asia Championship. In Changsha-Hunan, the Far East giants went unbeaten and knocked off their two biggest threats to supremacy, Iran and the Philippines, in their final two games.
No matter how well China played last year, though, the Olympics is a far more competitive tournament. Everyone remembers just how difficult the event was four years ago.
Zhou Peng certainly does. He was in the China team that lost all of its games by big margins in London.
Zhou Peng (CHN) played at the 2012 Olympics
The 26-year-old is, therefore, cautious ahead of Rio de Janeiro. He is stressing the importance of just taking part and the need to get young players experience.
It was great to win the last Asia Championship so that we got the ticket to Rio. The Olympic Games will be a great time for the young players to grow up, which is important for the future. - Zhou Peng
Coach Gong Luming, who led the Chinese to glory last year, recently reached agreement on a new contract and will be in charge at the Summer Games. It will be his second Olympics as a coach as he held the reins in 1996, too.
So what is the most important thing for China heading into the Summer Games? Perhaps it's to be full of pride, to remember they are the champions of Asia.
It will also be important to be realistic, to understand there is, for example, a very real possibility that on the opening day, the Americans will blow them out. Zhou Peng and Co must not allow such a result to kill their hopes of reaching the Quarter-Finals. It's something the player worries about.
"It is so exciting to play with NBA superstars," he said. "We will improve a lot from the game. But I think it is not a good thing to play with USA in the first game because it will be a huge challenge for our confidence. If we lose the game badly, our minds are in danger of being destroyed."
China did face the USA on the opening night of the Olympics eight years ago and lost, yet rebounded to make the Quarter-Finals. That China team had Yao Ming and also a home crowd behind it.
Yao Ming (CHN) was in the team in 2008 when China faced the USA
Zhou does believe that getting a couple of victories is a possibility. He says that to "win one or two games" is the aim for the national team.
For now, China can still feel very good about their performance of last autumn at the FIBA Asia Championship. After the shock of the Quarter-Final defeat to Chinese Taipei at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, China were in need of a bounce-back tournament.
They answered in the best way possible. Plenty of youngsters contributed in an undefeated run to the crown.
It was a milestone for Team China. China completed the rotation of the new generation. We had been struggling in the past couple of years and had tasted failure. But finally, China created a new dynasty. - Zhou Peng