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RIO DE JANEIRO, March 15 (Xinhua) -- China's modern pentathlon team is tuning up through competitions with an eye to bring home a medal from the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  Xu Haifeng, the deputy director of the Chinese Administrative Center of Cycling and Fencing, told Xinhua how much the team has learned from the latest trials in Rio, which took place March 10-14 at Rio's Deodoro Olympic Park, one of the four main venues hosting the 2016 Olympics, as it marked the second stage of the modern pentathlon World Cup.

  "Our main objective is to get to know the competition venues, and the horses that will be used during the games," said Xu on Sunday, China's first ever Olympic champion, also the head of the Chinese team to the trials.

  Xu, who has been leading China's modern pentathlon for 10 years, noted a couple of minor distinctions in conditions between China and Brazil that could ultimately make a difference in a competition where fractions of a second count.

  Chinese athletes are not accustomed to running on grass for the 3,200-meter cross-country run, Xu said, adding that "normally we run on a hard track, so when we return to China we should look for a convenient place with grass" to train.

  And the horses presented another variable, which China has already taken into account.

  "In China we used to use smaller and faster thoroughbreds, without great jumping ability," said Xu. "Here they use mixed breeds, with greater jumping power than ours."

  China recently bought 11 mixed breeds for training, and contracted a Belgian riding coach, said Xu, adding both steps helped to significantly improve the athletes' performances.

  Chen Qian, a Chinese swimmer ranked seventh in the women's pentathlon, said the Olympics would present a challenge.

  "The running track has many curves, which for me is a great challenge," said Chen. "The riding track is very small, with many turns and pretty high obstacles. I have to train more for these details in the run-up to the Olympic Games."

  Chen Zhongrong, a silver medal winner at the 2012 London Olympics, was also in Rio as part of China's pentathlon team.

  Until the end of May, athletes are still battling to qualify for the Olympics in August.

  Xu said the Chinese pentathlon team is also set to compete in the fourth stage of the World Cup, to be held in Hungary in May, and the World Championship in Moscow in May.

  Xu's preview of the Deodoro Sports Complex, site of the Olympic modern pentathlon competitions, led him to give it a positive assessment, saying "all the details meet Olympic norms."

  This year, to make the competition more attractive to viewers, the International Modern Pentathlon Union (known by its French acronym UIPM) "has decided to concentrate all five disciplines in one place, with riding, running and shooting on the same field, and fencing and swimming next door," said Xu.

  The new arrangement makes it easier for the competitors as well, he noted.

  When the five-sport event first joined the Olympic roster in 1912, it took place over four or five days, but was condensed in 1996 into a single day so fans could easily follow their teams.

  Xu appeared confident in his athletes' chances of staking a claim to the Olympic podium.

  "Our athletes' performance has been good, since out of the eight we brought, six qualified for the final stage" of the World Cup, he said.

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