Gold mine: Shooting sets the ball rolling for China at Olympic Games
Zhang Mengxue claims the first success in the women’s 10m air pistol, while Sun Yang shrugs off controversy to win the men’s 200m freestyle and Zhao Shuai becomes the first Chinese male to be crowned an Olympic taekwondo champion
In part four of the Post’s look at China’s 26 gold medal haul at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro ahead of this weekend’s visit to Hong Kong of a 64-strong delegation, we round up successes in shooting, swimming, athletics, track cycling and taekwondo.
Zhang Mengxue - Shooting - Women’s 10m air pistol
A surprising first gold medallist for China after the opening day disappointments. The up-and-coming shooter from Shandong province put her name in lights after favoured teammate Guo Wenjun, the two-time defending champion, failed to get past the preliminaries. “I am a young member of the national team and never thought about winning gold,” said Zhang. “There was no special feeling [winning the first gold] as I only want to do my best and get the best result for my country, something that makes me always feel proud.”
Sun Yang - Swimming - Men’s 200m freestyle
After enduring taunts of being a drug cheat and losing his 400m crown, Sun hit back by winning gold over the shorter distance for the first time. “I only managed a silver medal in the 200 in Kazan [2015 World Championships] and the London Games and feel very happy as the 200 result has proved my ability,” said Sun. “My form was not the best for the final due to the short recovery time, but I was able to overcome the fatigue. I came to Rio with a lot of pressure and have been losing weight. I am a bit sorry as I should have done better on the opening day.”
Wang Zhen - Athletics - Men’s 20km walk
For the first time China claimed the top two positions in an Olympic athletic event. Wang, who beat Cai Zelin by 12 seconds in a time of one hour, 19 minutes and 14 seconds, had been on the verge of quitting after successive losses at the 2012 London Games and the 2013 World Championships. “I was so disappointed that I wanted to stop, but my team kept reminding me of my unfinished business. From London to Rio, it has been four tough years and I am so happy that I have gone through it and have been able to realise my dream.”
Zhong Tianshi and Gong Jinjie - Track Cycling - Women’s team sprint
Gong finally won the gold she so richly deserved after she and partner Guo Shuang were demoted to second place following an illegal lane change in London four years ago. “This is a great moment to treasure, especially after the loss at the last Games in London,” said Gong, who set a world record of 31.928 seconds with her partner in the first round. Zhong said the high-intensity training was so demanding they would “lie breathless on the floor and wonder if they could continue.”
Zhao Shuai - Taekwondo - Men’s 58kg
Zhao is the first Chinese male to be crowned an Olympic taekwondo champion. Chen Zhong broke through for gold in the women’s 67kg and above at Sydney 2000, then won again in Athens four years later, while two-time champion Wu Jingyu attempted to defend her 49kg title in Rio but failed. Zhao started as a training partner but gradually broke through the ranks to reach the national team. “I felt very excited and would like to thank my team for the support they have given me,” he said.
Liu Hong - Athletics - Women’s 20km walk
It was third time lucky for world record holder Liu, who finished heartbreaking fourths at Beijing 2008 and London four years ago, as she won by two seconds. “I watched the Mexican walker [Guadalupe Gonzalez] all the way and, since I had never lost to her before, I was confident of overtaking her in the closing stages,” said Liu. “There have been many people who have supported me throughout these years and the gold medal belongs to all of them.”
Zheng Shuyin - Taekwondo - Women’s 67kg and above
China has not won the gold medal in the category since Chen Zhong at the 2004 Athens Games. “We have a long tradition in heavyweight categories and I am happy to make it happen again in the Olympic Games,” she said. “It’s never easy in the final, but I was quite relaxed. There was little pressure at all.” Her boyfriend, Zhao Shuai, won the only other taekwondo gold medal for China in the men’s 58kg. “We have never fought against each other – only help each other.