China enjoy their golden day in the sun as records tumble

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 September, 2008, 12:00am

China enjoyed a bonanza yesterday in their Paralympic medal haul, pushing their gold tally to 80.

With 11 more medals up for grabs in the evening session, six world records were set in seven finals in the National Stadium before lunch as the hosts dominated the morning track and field session, taking the top three spots in the women's F42/46 discus, plus two other golds.

Under more blue Beijing skies and a burning sun, Hong Kong's stars also shone brightly in the fencing and on the track, collecting a gold and a bronze.

Thousands of families flocked onto the Olympic Green and packed into the stadiums as they took advantage of the Mid-Autumn Festival public holiday. But the searing heat failed to wilt the festival atmosphere as China topped its Athens Games medal count of 63 and widened the gap over Britain.

It was an all-domestic affair and a tale of bravery and determination in the men's individual epee, category A, fencing gold medal final.

Silver medal winner Zhang Lei, who suffers from polio, spent the previous night in hospital undergoing urgent treatment. He ignored doctors' advice and competed in the morning final against compatriot Tian Jianquan, losing 11-15 despite a strong fight.

'My coach and team leader tried to persuade me to give up the event,' said Zhang, 25, of Shanghai. 'But I would rather exhaust myself on the piste than lie in bed and watch others compete.'

With two days to go until the end of China's Olympic and Paralympic odyssey, Zhang summed up the thoughts of many after his performance. 'I'm giving myself a long vacation to fully relax,' he said.

Such thoughts were echoed by Dang Yaping, former Olympic gold medallist in table tennis and now spokeswoman for the Olympic Village. 'It's going to be very sad, very depressing when the village closes [on Saturday],' she said.

'But I really hope athletes will walk away from China not only with medals but also with [memories] of the meticulous care and warmth from our village staff.'

Canadian women's basketball player Chantal Benoit said although her country lost its domination in the sport, the 2008 Beijing Paralympics was the best she had attended.

'I've competed in seven Paralympics and this place is very special,' said the 47-year-old. 'There is not one sign saying 'Olympics'. It is all 'Paralympics'. The Chinese have raised the bar and have made us all feel very special.'

At the 'Bird's Nest', China's Huang Lisha not only beat Jessica Galli of the US to the gold in the T53 200 metres, she did it in the world record time of 29.17. Teammate Zhou Hongzhuan took the bronze in 30.15.

Li Duan needed only his first attempt to win the men's T11 long jump, with 6.61 metres. It was his second gold after winning the triple jump on Friday. In the women's F42/46 discus, China swept the medals. Wang Jun earned her gold medal with her last attempt of 36.99 metres, beating Zheng Baozhu's previous F42 world record of 32.94.

Yang Yue's throw of 42.38 metres broke her F44 world record but gave her only silver based on the multi-classification event points system. Zheng won the bronze with 33.19m.

The Chinese team also made a splash in the Aquatics Centre with Xu Qing winning the men's 50 metres freestyle S6 final in a world record time of 29.78 seconds, while his teammate Tang Yuan took silver.

As of last night, China had won 187 medals, with Britain second on 96 and the US third with 91.