Following the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Tianjin Plus looks at China’s performance in the sports covered during its ‘Olympic Spotlight’ series.
What a fantastic Olympic Games we were treated to in London. Memorable for so many reasons. Hosts Great Britain achieved their biggest gold medal haul since 1908 to finish third on the medal tally, whilst Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei entered female athletes for the first time- meaning that every country has now been represented by a female competitor in least one Olympic Games; a massively step for women’s rights. Furthermore, with women's boxing finally included, the London 2012 Games was the first at which every sport had female competitors.
But it was also a games of incredible personal feats. Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time as he scooped his 22nd medal, Britain’s Nicola Adams made history as the first ever female Olympic boxing gold medallist, Usain Bolt emphatically defended his 100m and 200m titles sweeping aside questions about his fitness in the process and a star was born as the phenomenal Ye Shiwen swept to glory in both the 200m and 400m medley events.
Team China’s overall performance at the 2012 Olympics was as good as most predictions suggested it would be prior to the start of the games. China’s haul of 88 medals, with 38 golds, left them second on the medal table, 16 medals and eight golds adrift of Team USA, who they so spectacularly beat into second place on the medals table at their home Olympics four years ago, but saw them finish a good distance clear of the hosts Team GB who finished third with 65 medals and 29 golds, their finest tally in over 100 years.
Of course, China’s officials were at pains to play down China’s chances of repeating their feat of four years ago in the build up to the opening of the London Games. As hosts, China had been represented by an extra 237 athletes in Beijing and so sporting officials were eager to point out that it would be unrealistic to expect a similar result. However, China’s streamlined delegation still managed to ensure that this was China’s second best Olympic performance.
China continued to dominate in their usual strong suits of badminton, table tennis and diving, gymnastics, shooting and weight lifting, but also made great strides in swimming, fencing and cycling.
China’s Li Na – the only Chinese player to qualify for the tournament proper – disappointed as she was surprisingly eliminated on the first morning of action.
China swept all five golds on offer. As we suspected, the men’s final ended with a showdown between the two legends of the game Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. After going down 21-15 in the opening game, Lin fought back to claim the gold 21-10, 21-19 in an astounding finale.
Li Xueri took the women’s singles; Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng took the men’s doubles; Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei took the women’s doubles; and Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei clinched the mixed doubles gold.
Zou Shiming was billed as China’s best hope in the men’s boxing and he duly delivered landing his second consecutive Olympic gold medal. In the latest discipline to be added to the Olympics, Ren Cancan was China’s best hope of a women’s medal, and the three-time world champion was heavily tipped to take the gold in the women’s flyweight division. She eventually lost out in the final to Great Britain’s Nicola Adams, who she had defeated twice in their three bouts before the final, and eventually had to settle of the silver.
China’s men’s team failed to qualify but the women’s were fancied to go close in pursuit of their first Olympic gold, especially after their strong showing in Beijing four years ago.
A disappointing group stage defeat to lowly Japan meant that China missed out on qualifying for the finals- ending up third in their qualifying group.
Track & Field
Liu Xiang held the hopes of a nation in his hands on the back of a return to form in the run up to the London Games, and his failure was undoubtedly China’s biggest disappointment of the Games. Liu crashed out of his qualifying heat spectacularly, bringing back the harrowing memories of his gold medal defence in Beijing four years ago.
China made huge inroads into Team USA’s traditional strong suit, swimming, at London 2012. China finished clear in second place on the swimming medals table, a long way behind Team USA.
Sun Yang produced two stunning swims in sealing the 400m freestyle event setting an Olympic record in the process, and went even better in the 1500m Freestyle where he set a new world record.
Sixteen-year-old Ye Shiwen produced one of the most astonishing moments of the games as she swept to gold in both the 200m and 400m medley events smashing the 400m world record.
Jiao Liuyang also took gold in the 200m butterfly event.
China produced another commanding display in diving, although they didn’t quite produce the clean sweep that was being touted before the event. They were forced to settle for six of the eight golds available as Qin Kai and Qiu Bo surprisingly missed out on gold, instead settling for silver.