Fiercer and stronger: China blames diminishing Olympic Games gold medal haul on better competition
Delegation chief Liu Peng is satisfied with the team’s performance in Rio de Janeiro but admits some sports fell below expectations
China claim to be satisfied with the performance of their youthful squad at the Olympic Games, blaming their relatively low medal yield on a “fierce and stronger” challenge from other nations in Rio de Janeiro
Head of delegation Liu Peng said the 410-strong squad of athletes mostly met their objectives, winning 26 gold medals, with a largely inexperienced and young group.
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“We took part in 26 sports and 210 disciplines and the Chinese delegation did achieve their objectives and our performances demonstrated the principles of higher, faster and stronger,” Liu said.
‘The average age of our athletes is only 24-years-old and, although it is our biggest squad outside of Beijing, it is also our youngest with 70 percent of them first-time Olympians.
“We set a number of world records and Olympic records and the Chinese people can be very proud of the athletes performances.”
China won 38 gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics to finish second behind the Americans, who had 46 with Great Britain third on 29.
They are unlikely to win any gold medals on the final day in Rio, and will therefore finish behind Britain, who have 27, with the US streets ahead on 43.
In Beijing in 2008, China topped the gold rush with 51, followed by USA (36) and Russia (22), while Britain had 19.
Liu admitted there were areas in which the China team fell below expectations.
“In several sports we failed to match what we have attained at World Cups or World Championships,” he said. “We were unable to sustain strong challenges in some of the events.
“Also, recently more countries have been giving more attention to the Olympic Games and therefore the level of competition is fierce and stronger than before.
“We need to improve mentally, and there were some instances where coaching and training were not good enough and need to be improved.”
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Liu would not elaborate on which sports fell short of expectations.
However, sports in which China have traditionally been dominant, such as gymnastics and badminton, failed to live up to expectations in Rio.
He said China must continue to strive for excellence by learning from other countries to help improve their performances.
Su Bingtan, who has run under 10 seconds in the 100 metres and helped China to a surprise fourth place in the men’s 4x100m relay, said Chinese sprinters had improved over the past few years because of overseas training.
Does China’s worst Olympic Games medal haul since 2000 point to a change in the country’s attitude towards sport?
“When we go to Europe and train there regularly we see how the athletes train and we incorporate some of their methodologies into our programme,” he said.
Diving star Wu Minxia, who has won five gold medals in four Olympics, joined Liu for the post-mortem press conference, but refused to talk about retirement, preferring to concentrate on how diving has helped her to grow as a person.
“I started out as a child and then was still diving as an adolescent and then into adulthood and it really taught me a lot of things about life,” she said.
“For that I’m grateful to diving and my coaches and, as a Chinese, I’m really proud to have contributed to the country.”
Liu also hailed the likes of colourful swimmer Fu Yuanhui, who took the internet by storm with her hilarious post-race interviews – including discussing taboo subjects such as her menstrual cycle.
“With a person like Fu Yuanhui, I think the world is seeing modern Chinese athletes, who are open and humorous and competitive,” he said.