ROME, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Italian Olympians are going to London in hope of emulating their success four years ago in Beijing Games, according to Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Gianni Petrucci.
In 2008 Beijing Games, Italy finished 9th in the medal tally with 27 medals - 8 gold, 9 silver and 10 bronze medals. To stay in the top 10 of the medal table is one of the goals for Italy in London.
Petrucci, approaching to his fourth and last summer Olympic Games, said to Xinhua: "I am very happy and proud of what we did in these 10 years. I believe a lot of good things have happened to the sport and to the sports movement in general."
"Once again we are approaching the Olympic Games with many hopes and have worked well to reach our goal of getting many medals. Our goal would be to repeat the position we had in Beijing, among the top ten in the medal table. It's not going to be easy but we will fight for that," Petrucci said.
A lot of Italian athletes had achieved good results in different international events such as world championships in the past two years, but Petrucci remained a clear mind.
"We should never forget that the Olympics are such an important event and goal for every athlete. So it cannot be compared to any world championships. This is the reason why I still hope we can reach our goal of about 30 medals and to remain in the top 10 of the medal table," he said.
China surpassed the United States to top the Olympic medal table for the first time. And Petrucci expected the two delegation will continue to vie for the top position in London.
"It's still going to be between China and the United States, no doubt," he said. "The United States will try to get back to No. 1 and China is not the host country so we expect to see less medals for China this year. So I would say that United States would regain the top position but China will always be there."
Italy will send a delegation of some 292 athletes to London and in Petrucci's eyes, most of the athletes have the chance to reach the podium.
"We have excellent coaches and training facilities and every athlete is at the top form right in time for the Olympics. I can't give names for who we expect to get medals but it is no secret that we do have hopes in all the fencing events, in Alex Schwazer in the race walk, in the volleyball and water polo teams, in gymnastics, boxing and some other events," he said.
He didn't forget one of the big national stars, swimmer Federica Pellegrini, but chose not to put too much pressure on her.
"She is definitely one of our top hopes. But her competition is extremely hard and there are several athletes at her level. We do believe that she can win but we also don't want to put too much pressure on her by telling that the only possible result for her is gold. She is very strong and she will certainly be very competitive in London but there shouldn't be any drama if she doesn't win," Petrucci said.
"Italians expect gold medals from her but what she already did for the sports over the past years, together with other athletes, is very important as she helped the sport at a social level," he added.
Overall there is a positive attention and great expectations for the upcoming Olympics but not everything is perfect, and Petrucci believed Italy failed to have many teams compete in London is disappointing to him.
"We only have water-polo and volleyball in both men's and women's competitions but I am very sad that the Italian basketball team failed to qualify and neither did the football teams. Not having Italy in the Olympic football tournament is something we should be ashamed of," he said.
"Many things have changed in Italian sports in general and luckily, for the majority of Italians, there isn't just football," Petrucci said.
"In the past football was the only successful sport in Italy and people would think about the other sports only once every four years during the Olympics. Now I am proud to say that sports like swimming, athletics, tennis, gymnastics and even rugby (which will be included in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016) are sports that the Italians follow every year on a regular basis," he said.
In Petrucci's mind, the Olympic Games still have a very strong impact on the population especially on the young people who will approach all the sports much easily as they have role models to follow.
"I am very happy that sports in Italy has changed over these 10 years. And it also dramatically influenced society and the general culture of the country, sports today is part of our national culture and pride," he said.
"I can proudly say that today Italy is a country of sportsmen and not just a country of football fans," said Petrucci.