Aug 07, 2021 08:35 AM

Opinion: Why China May Win the Most Gold Medals in Tokyo

Guan Chenchen won the gold medal in the balance beam at the Tokyo Games.
Guan Chenchen won the gold medal in the balance beam at the Tokyo Games.

China has won more than 30 gold medals so far in the Tokyo Olympics. It’s possible that it will exceed the record 38 gold medals China won at the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

When it comes to winning gold medals, China’s three “dream teams” — weightlifting, table tennis and diving — all have to be close to perfect.

Eight Chinese weightlifters, one in each discipline, won seven golds and one silver. Although China’s table tennis team lost the gold in the mixed doubles, it won gold and silver in both the men’s and women’s singles, thanks to all-Chinese finals, and will undoubtedly finish with four gold medals (including those in the men’s and women’s team disciplines) and three silver medals. The diving team lost the gold medal in the men’s synchronized 10 meter platform but claimed gold in all other competitions so far and is expected to win seven gold medals in total.

After their defeat at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, China’s other three dream teams have done their best to catch up. So far, China has won two golds and three silvers in badminton, three golds, three silvers and two bronzes in artistic gymnastics, and four golds, one silver and six bronzes in shooting.

Together, those six teams have made sure to help China reach the top of the medal table.

China also has done well in events where it has clear potential, such as fencing, cycling and water sports, and in events such as swimming and track and field, helping to cement China’s position at the top.

The low-profile Chinese swimming team achieved excellent results — three gold, two silver and one bronze — thanks to breakout female star Zhang Yufei, the burst of the relay team, and the achievements of the men’s team led by Wang Shun.


Weightlifter Li Wenwen won the women's 87kg+ finals at Tokyo 2020 and broke three world records

In previous Olympic Games, the U.S. often easily surpassed China in gold medals. But this year, the chance for China to take the crown is growing.

The main reasons, as agreed by some of my former American colleagues at Sports Illustrated, are as follows:

First, as the 32nd Olympic Games are in Toyko, it can be said that Chinese athletes are practically competing at home — as there is not much time difference in time zone, diet or climate between China and Japan.

Second, the games were postponed for a year because of the pandemic. This gave Chinese athletes more time for training and preparation. Meanwhile, the U.S., Great Britain, Russia, France, Germany and many other sports powers faced waves of the virus amid laxer control and prevention measures. This inevitably affected their athletes’ training.

And third, there is no audience at any of the venues, meaning the competitions are almost like training. For Chinese athletes, who are accustomed to group training, this can be an advantage as they are more used to a quiet atmosphere. However, European and American athletes who like to interact with an audience may have a harder time in the subdued atmospheres.


Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping clinched victory in badminton mixed doubles.

Of course, China’s athletes also benefited from the role of the Training Bureau of the General Administration of Sport of China and its organization and structure. The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is the world’s richest sports organization, but its allocation of funds is severely imbalanced. Only events that are highly market-oriented and can make big contributions get more funding. For example, the United States women’s national soccer team outperforms the men’s, making it the world’s only women’s soccer team to claim equal pay compared with the men’s team.

Many argue that the Olympic gold medal standings embody a country’s comprehensive strength. Economic development and improvement of living standards let us abandon the obsession with gold medals — Chinese are more relaxed about it these days. But one cannot underestimate the growth of comprehensive national strength revealed by the gold medal table, the strong sense of honor of Chinese gold medalists and the spirit handed down from generations of athletes fighting for the country to become a sporting powerhouse.

The Olympics has introduced a new slogan: Faster, Higher, Stronger and Together. The achievements of Chinese athletes at the Olympics result from the endeavors of several generations. As many said, our rivals are running out of time.

Yang Wang is a sports commentator and the former editor-in-chief of Channel 5 magazine.

The views and opinions expressed in this opinion section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial positions of Caixin Media.

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