Shaoxing, East China. There is a big leap of faith between the optimism of head China coach Zhang Yadong and the reality of where his team's performances sit in the context of a swimming world on the move. The trials in China have raised hopes of medals at the Olympic Games, the coach told Xinhua agency, but not yet expectations of gold.
From a distance, even the medal hopes are remote. The seven-day Olympic trials - not trials at all in the sense of where the eventual team will come from - ended today with celebration for a national record in the 1,500m freestyle for Zhang Lin, in 14:55.98, just 0.95sec shy of South Korean Park Tae-Hwan's Asian record. Zhao Jing's sub-minite backstroke was one of the highlights among Asian-record-breaking swims at trials, prompting coach Zhang to say: 'It's been years since we saw so many new national or Asian records broken on such a large scale. We found a lot of confidence through the trials.' A while since a positive test too. Long may it be so.
Zhang the swimmer, said: 'I wanted to swim under 14:50 seconds and break the Asian record, but it was the last race at the trials, and I've been tired out. I think I'll have to improve my pace.' Zhang, 21, also downed the national record of the 400m freestyle at trials with 3:44.97.
The lasts session of finals saw Qi Hui hold off 14-year-old Li Xuanxu to win the 200m medley in 2:12.61. Chen Huijia, from Zhejiang, claimed the 100m breaststroke in 1:08.43, a time that suggests the loss to China of the Olympic crown won by Luo Xuejuan in 2004.
Zhang the coach concluded: 'There is no points which are shining and strong enough for any gold medal at the Olympics. Chances of gold are still slim for my swimmers.'
One medal hope, Wu Peng, faces Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly, and in the same event for women China has two under 2:09: Jiao Liuyang, 17, and Liu Zige, 19. But then Britain has two under 2:08 and there are a fair few ready to go 2:05/2:06.
Coach Zhang confirmed that the China team will be finalised using trials results and 'potentials and abilities of individual swimmers ... the list will be discussed and submitted to the general sports administration for approval in the coming days.' A read that may yet fascinate.