Rio Games: unruffled, Chinese happy to wait for first Olympic gold medal

Once a source of Chinese audience called for dropping the obsession of gold medals in sports

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 2:20am

China had to wait until Day 2 of the Rio Games to claim its first gold medal but in a change from the past, viewers back home did not appear to mind the delay.

By the end of competition on Saturday, China had claimed two silver medals and three bronze. Zhang Mengxue broke through for China on Sunday with a win in the women’s 10m air ­pistol event.

It was only the second time the country’s contingent had ended the first day without gold since it sent its first team to the summer Olympics in 1984. The last time China drew a blank on the opening day was in Sydney in 2000.

China’s Olympic gold medal haul was a source of national pride in the past but the public reaction on the mainland seemed mostly calm and measured on Sunday before the first win.

“The colour or the number of the medals is not so important as before. A gold medal used to be a symbol of national pride for China, but we don’t need that now,” said Mao Peng, a 40-year-old Beijing business executive and avid sports fan.

Full coverage of the Rio Olympics

“A medal could change a winner’s fate, but there are many Chinese athletes in Rio who have no hope of getting a medal but just fight for better results, and they have my respect and attention.”

There are many Chinese athletes in Rio who have no hope of getting a medal but just fight for better results, and they have my respect and attention
Mao Peng, Beijing sports fan

A basketball fan who bought a dozen bottles of wine to drink during the Games said she was “a bit sorry but not disappointed” about the first day’s results but they were “acceptable”. “Don’t just remember the champions. [We need to] applaud the winners of silver and bronze as well,” she said.

After watching China’s women’s basketball team go up against the Canadians in Rio yesterday, Shenzhen resident Jacky Ye said he still had high hopes for better results. “I was at first a little disappointed that China wasn’t able to win gold in some events. But I know they have done their best,” Ye said.

Some critics on social media took aim at the focus on gold, calling for an overhaul of the state-sponsored sport system.

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“I hope the media and the Communist Party can drop their obsession with the first gold medals,” one commenter said. “The Olympic spirit is not a medal spirit. Do not politicise sport. ”

Another said: “Rio is too dangerous. It doesn’t matter if we get gold or not. Just keep safe.”

A commentary by state-run Xinhua described the first day’s results as “not horrible”, saying it was just the first battle of the Games. “The first gold medal is not so important,” it said, adding that Chinese athletes showed confidence and ease. “This may be more important than gold medals,” it said.