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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: July 23, 2012 NO. 30 JULY 26, 2012
Gold Diggers
Chinese athletes aim for new glory in London 2012 Summer Olympic Games
By Tang Yuankai

VICTORY: China's top badminton player Lin Dan celebrates while scoring at a Thomas Cup badminton game in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, on May 25, 2012 (GUO CHEN)

Despite being eliminated in the first round in the Athens Olympics, famous badminton Grand Slam champion Lin Dan won the championship in the Beijing Olympic Games without suspense, boosting his number of world champion titles to 16. He is the only Chinese athlete among the top 10 most remarkable stars released by Associated Press alongside Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Until now, there has been no defending champion in Olympic badminton history. It is a good chance for the 28-year-old Lin to break the spell.

Compared with Lin's high-profile fame, the diving team tends to stay low key. In the first nine years of the 21st century, the laurel belonged to Guo Jingjing, who won the most Olympic medals and ranked among the top six gold medal winners. After she retired in 2011, Wu Minxia, her partner in the women's 3-meter springboard double in 2008, finally stood out to take her place.

Wu will join He Zi to compete in the 3-meter springboard double for the third consecutive Olympics, and will also attend the women's 3-meter springboard singles. If Wu wins the two titles, she would become the third Grand Slam diver after Gao Min and Guo. To add to the drama, 27-year-old Wu will be competing against her younger partner, He, who once defeated her in a stunning performance.

Lin Yue, who won a gold medal in the men's 10-meter platform diving contest along with Huo Liang at the Beijing Olympic Games, will compete in the event again at the London Olympics.

VICTORY: Chinese swimmer Jiao Liuyang (left) celebrates with teammate Liu Zige after winning the women's 200-meter butterfly final in 2'5''55 at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai on July 28, 2011 (FEI MAOHUA)

Liu Zige won gold in the 200-meter butterfly stroke at the Beijing Olympics in a hard-fought final. When the scoreboard revealed she had won first place, she kept her usual poise. And although she came in first at the Olympic selective trials, very few people knew of her. When she held a press conference after becoming an Olympic champion, the 19-year-old became known to the world for the first time.

According to her family, Liu has been introverted since childhood, but she quickly took to sports. Her father, Liu Lihui, encouraged her to channel her extra energy into swimming practice. Those who grew up with her have always felt that Liu has great ambitions and always strives to be the best.

"She has the ability to bear hardships and achieve success through her own efforts," her coach said. Besides swimming, Liu loves to read and watch historical TV documentaries. She said that reading ancient philosophical classics helped reduce performance pressures and calm her heart before the Olympics.

"In the competition, I didn't care about my rivals' performance but instead competed with myself," she said. In the Rome World Championships in July of 2009 she won a silver medal, but broke her own previous world record at 2'03''90. At the 11th National Games held two months later in Ji'nan, east China's Shandong Province, she not only won gold but also set a new world record at 2'01''81.

Her coach Jin Wei has kept silent about Liu's London Olympics prospects, which has only added to the anticipation. Jiao Liuyang, another Chinese hopeful, will participate in the same event as Liu, increasing the odds that the swimming team will earn gold.

MATCHING PAIRS: Two pairs of famous Chinese athletes, swimmers Liu Zige (first right) and Sun Yang (second right), as well as gymnasts Chen Yibing (second left) and Huang Qiushuang, wear uniforms of the Chinese delegation for the London Olympics, in Beijing on June 25 (GONG LEI)

Compared with the momentum behind the women's swimming team, the prospect for the men's gymnastics team to retain their championship title appears bleak. They won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics for the first time, but dropped to the fifth place in Athens. The team then put on a strong performance to take the championship again in Beijing. Huang Yubin, head coach of the gymnastics team, said it will be much more difficult for the men's team to win in London.

The shooting team is favored to win gold medals in 14 events and may break a new record. Experts say that although luck can play an important part in shooting competitions, the Chinese shooting athletes have put on steady performances in recent years and are expected to win as many as five gold medals in London. The shooting team is composed of five Beijing Olympic champions, including the couple Pang Wei and Du Li.

Du, who won the first gold medal of the 2004 Athens Olympics when she took part in her first Olympic Games, failed to win the first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. However, she quickly adjusted and earned gold in the women's 50-meter rifle three positions, while Pang took first in the men's 10-meter air pistol. Shortly after the Beijing Olympics, the two fell in love, got married and had a child.

The Chinese weight lifting team won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics and experts say the team could win five to six gold medals in London with ease.

Meanwhile, the women's volleyball team, once regarded as "unbeatable," has had poor performances in recent years. They are in the so-called "Group of Death" with the United States and Brazil, and are less likely to stage a comeback.

It is predicted that if China could win around 10 gold medals in boxing, judo and wrestling, it will beat the United States again and take around 37 gold medals—one or two more than that of the United States.

Email us at: tangyuankai@bjreview.com

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