Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yearender: China looks to defend top status in London 2012

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - NOVEMBER 13:  Jacques Rogge...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
BEIJING, Dec. 25, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- A look at the final medal table for the Asian Games, which finished in Guangzhou last month, leaves little wonder that China is on the right path to defend its No. one status when the London Olympics come in less than two years' time.
After staging a magnificent Olympics in Beijing in 2008, where it topped the gold tally for the first time in Olympic history with 51, ahead of the United States and Russia, China put up yet another impressive show in Guangzhou, completely dominating the Asian Games by winning 199 gold and 416 total medals - both Asiad records. Its nearest rivals South Korea and Japan won 75 and 48 gold medals respectively.
The Chinese athletes were so brilliant at the Asian Games that International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge believes China's supremacy will continue at the 2012 London Olympics.
"In 2004, at the end of the Athens Olympics I said ... we saw the rise of Asian continent in sport, as there were great performances, not just by China, but also by Japan, South Korea and Thailand," said Rogge during a visit to Guanghzou last month.
"This has been confirmed in Beijing 2008, where your country was No. 1 in the gold medal count with 51 golds. And this would continue definitely at London 2012."
The secret of China's success is the quality of its youth. Of the 199 gold medals won in Guangzhou, 128 of them were grabbed by Chinese youths making their first-ever appearances at the Asian Games.
"In our strong sports our athletes have maintained the marked advantage over their competitors that we have had since the Beijing Olympics and we feel this is sustainable based on our talent pool," said Duan Shijie, deputy minister of the State General Administration of Sport of China.
Swimming is one sport where China showed obvious improvement by grabbing 24 of the 38 gold medals on offer in Guangzhou and defeating once superior rivals from Japan and South Korea.
A leading figure for China in London could be Sun Yang who eclipsed the Asian mark in the men's 1,500 meter freestyle by more than 10 seconds clocking 14min 35.43sec and winning a total of three gold medals.
Ye Shiwen, just 14, underlined the strength of China's younger generation of swimmers, winning the 200m individual medley after her earlier success over 400m, while Shao Yiwen, 15, captured the women's 400m freestyle and Li Xuanxu, 16, took 800m freestyle gold.
Also among the most eye-catching talents are Yang Zhe and Yi Siling.
Yang, 19, upset the top three Asian lifters at the world championships and then claimed a surprise gold in the men's 105kg class at the Asian Games.

Yang only made his international debut for China at last year's East Asian Games in Hong Kong.
Yi, 21, lived up to her billing as one of China's brightest young shooting talents when she won both the team and individual golds in the women's 10m air rifle event. Yi also took gold at this year's world championships in Munich and her consistent form suggests she could eventually take the mantle from double Olympic champion Du Li, who has taken a break to start a family.
Meanwhile, the established stars like hurdler Liu Xiang, badminton ace Lin Dan and a group of elite divers, tennis table players and gymnasts also fared well, sending to the world a message that, in London, they will try to achieve the same abroad which they did at home.
Liu Xiang, a sporting icon (NASDAQ:ICLR) in China with a profile rivaled only by NBA star Yao Ming, was nearing his once world record holding form, clocking 13.09 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles to become the third fastest in the event in 2010. The 27-year-old hurdler shocked millions of Chinese when he limped out of his heat at the 2008 Olympics due to an Achilles' tendon injury.
"I believe I can win gold but, of course, a lot of other factors will be in play," Liu said of his prospect in London. "There is still a gap between this performance and my peak form but I believe I can improve."
With expectations running high that China will again top the gold count in London, Chinese sports officials have played down the chance of repeating the feat.
"While we have achieved good results in some of our strong sports, other countries and regions are catching up. And in a considerable number of events, we lack competitiveness to win gold in the Olympics," said Duan.
Duan might have been talking about a weaker showing in some sports that China has traditionally dominated, such as shooting, fencing and weightlifting.
South Korea claimed 13 golds in the Asiad shooting competitions, four of which are Olympic programs. For the first time, their men's team eclipsed their Chinese counterparts 10-9 in gold medals. Meanwhile, China's gold medallists from the Beijing Olympics Pang Wei and Guo Wenjun failed to deliver anything.
Christian Bauer, who masterminded Zhong Man's journey to China's first men's individual saber gold in the Beijing Olympic Games, left China in May.

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