China was celebrating again yesterday after its world-beating Olympic champions were honoured with the Laureus World Team of the Year award. The 639-strong team - China's biggest ever - delighted the home nation by producing their best-ever Olympics result in Beijing last August, topping the medals table with a record 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze. The team got the nod from the 46 sporting greats who make up the Laureus academy ahead of soccer teams Manchester United and Spain, the British Olympic cycling team, the Jamaican Olympic sprint team and the NBA's Boston Celtics. 'Beijing was one of the great Olympic Games,' academy chairman Ed Moses said at a special ceremony in Beijing. 'One of the most amazing things was the passion and determination of the Chinese athletes who produced so many epic performances, not just in the sports in which we knew they were good, but in others where China was not expected to do so well. 'On the track, in the pool, in the sports halls, there was a constant stream of unforgettable moments.' In events traditionally strong for the Chinese, such as weightlifting, gymnastics, diving, table tennis, badminton, shooting and judo, they amassed 39 gold medals. They also made breakthroughs in events such as archery, rowing, trampoline, fencing, sailing and women's gymnastics. Duan Shijie, vice-minister of the General Administration of Sport of China and vice-president of the China Olympic Committee, said: 'The 2008 Beijing Olympics was one of the proudest sporting moments for China. Apart from the successful organisation of the Games, the Olympic team achieved incredible results.' Laureus Academy member Deng Yaping, the Chinese table tennis legend, added: 'This is international recognition of a great achievement. It is not only an honour for the athletes, team officials and coaches but for the whole nation.' The usual gala ceremony for the awards was cancelled this year and replaced by individual ceremonies for the winners because of the global economic downturn.