CHINA'S athletes enjoyed their greatest Olympic success at the 1992 Barcelona Games, winning 54 medals - 16 gold, 22 silver and 16 bronze. It was a huge improvement on their performance four years earlier in South Korea, where China won only five golds, 11 silvers and 12 bronze medals. The Barcelona gold medals were won in swimming (four), diving (three), table tennis (three), shooting (two), gymnastics (two), judo and athletics. Here is a look at the golden stars, their views and aspirations. SWIMMING: Qian Hong, women's 100 metres butterfly. The 21-year-old won gold in an Olympic record time of 58.62 seconds. ''If I had to start from the very beginning, I'd gladly go through all the hardships of training. Without the hardships, no one can taste the sweet joy of winning,'' she said. Lin Li, women's 200 metres individual medley. The 22-year-old broke an 11-year-old world record for the 200 metres medley by 0.08 seconds at Barcelona, clocking 2 mins 11.65 secs to eclipse race favourite Summer Sanders. ''One of the great things about the Olympics is that it inspires the young to find their strength and be the best they can be,'' she said. Zhuang Yong, women's 100 metres freestyle. The 20-year-old world champion won China's first gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in an Olympic record time of 54.64 seconds. ''This is the most exciting and unforgettable moment in my life. I am proud for myself and for China,'' she said. She took the silver in the 50 metres freestyle, behind teammate Yang Wenyi. Yang Wenyi, women's 50 metres freestyle. Nicknamed the Flying Mermaid, this 20-year-old from Shanghai improved on her 1988 world record by clocking 24.79 seconds to win her first major title. DIVING: Sun Shuwei, men's platform. The 17-year-old from Kityeung, southern China, is 1.42 metres tall and is fondly called ''little man'' by his teammates. The 1991 world champion began his training at the age of eight and was 16 when he won the Barcelona gold with a score of 677.310 points, more than 43 points ahead of runner-up Scott Donie, of the United States. Sun finished with sheer eclat, his 31/2 somersault tuck gaining maximum marks from four of the seven judges. It was the Chinese men's first diving gold. Fu Mingxia, women's platform. The most astounding member of China's team, Fu has a big heart and a lot of courage. In 1991 in Perth, Australia, Fu, then aged 12, became the youngest person to win the world championship. She now divides her time between school and training for the Atlanta Olympics. Gao Min, women's springboard. Called the world's Diving Queen and China's Fair Smiling Lady, the 21-year-old almost gave up diving in 1986 but was persuaded by her coach to persevere. She went on to win the world championship in 1986, 1987 and 1991. Undefeated in international diving since 1986, she defended her springboard title, finishing 58 points ahead of her nearest challenger, Russia's Irina Lachko. TABLE TENNIS: Deng Yaping, women's singles and women's doubles. Now aged 19, the world's No 1 player was introduced to the sport by her father when she was five. After successes in various tournaments, she became one of China's top sports stars. ''Winning the gold expressed my feelings for both the sport and China,'' she said. She beat her doubles partner, Qiao Hong, in the final of the singles. Qiao Hong, women's doubles. The world's No 2 player, she first teamed up with Deng to win the women's doubles at the 40th World Table Tennis Championships. ''People ask me if it's difficult to play with a partner who beat me in the 41st world tournament. But, for me, the honour of China comes first.'' It was a China 1-2 victory in the women's doubles, with Chen Zihe and Gao Jun taking the silver. Wang Tao, men's doubles. The 24-year-old left-hander had an early, and unlikely, fascination with the sport. ''I remember that when I was two my father made me a necklace of table tennis balls,'' he said. He went on to take international titles in singles and mixed doubles. Lu Lin, men's doubles. The 23-year-old won his first international title in 1989 and became the singles winner in the 1992 Japan Open. ''This is the first time Wang Tao and I have ever taken part in the Olympics and we are delighted to have won the gold medal.'' To win the gold, they beat Germany's world champions Steffen Fetzner and Jorg Rosskopf 26-24, 18-21, 21-18, 13-21, 21-14. SHOOTING: Zhang Shan, mixed skeet. The 24-year-old from Sichuan Province became the first woman in Olympic history to win the gold in skeet shooting and, because of rule changes, will be the last woman to beat a man in this event. Wang Yifu, men's air pistol. Runner-up in the free pistol, Wang, 31, went one better in the air pistol with a score of 684.8 to hit the golden target. Wang is already a veteran of three Olympic Games and his gold came after a wait of 16 years of hard training and practice with the air pistol. At Los Angeles in 1984, he took the bronze in the free pistol and was twice the defending world champion, both in Germany and in Italy. GYMNASTICS: Li Xiaoshuang, men's floor exercises. At 18, Li became the first gymnast to execute a somersault tuck in a final, a feat for which he scored 9.925 points, won the gold and earned the title King of the Somersault. ''For my 19th birthday,'' he said, ''the gold medal was the only present I wanted.'' Lu Li, women's uneven parallel bars. This 16-year-old's climb to Olympic fame began 10 years ago when she joined a gym in her native Hunan Province. She became a members of the national team in 1991 and had her first international experience last April. ''I never expected to get the gold. I certainly never dreamed of getting a perfect 10.'' It seemed as if the days of 10s had gone - but Lavinia Corina Milosovici (Romania) achieved it in the floor exercise, as did Lu in the uneven parallel bars with a performance described as weightless and astonishing. JUDO: Zhuang Xiaoyan, women's +72 kg. Weighing in at 98 kgs and standing 1.74 metres, this 23-year-old is China's first Olympic judo champion. She began her training with the discus at the age of 14 and, a year, later she joined the national judo team. ''Although I've reached the highest peak of my sport, I have no desire to rest on my Olympic gold; there are more medals to win.'' ATHLETICS: Chen Yueling, women's 10-kilometre walk. Born into a farming family, Chen became China's first Olympic track and field champion, beating Russia's Elena Kikolaeva by just one second. China also took the bronze medal through Li Chunxiu.