China has become a formidable force at the modern Summer Olympic Games and has finished in the top four of the medal table in all but one of the last nine Olympics. The country boasts a total of 224 gold medals from just 10 Games campaigns and sits seventh in the all-time list of Olympic medal-winning nations. China will send a squad of 392 athletes to compete in Japan later this month and will almost certainly add to its massive medal haul there when new gold-winning Olympians from China are likely to be crowned. But who are China’s best ever Olympians? So many Chinese athletes have taken to the podium for China, but who ranks top among them? This list aims to identify the cream of China’s crop down the years. Part two of this list is available here . China’s top Olympic athletes of all time: part two – Sun Yang, Liu Xiang and Lang Ping Deng Yaping Table Tennis Born : February 6, 1973 (Zhengzhou, Henan). Notable Olympic performances : 1992 Summer Olympics , Barcelona, Spain: two gold medals (women’s singles and doubles). 1996 Summer Olympics , Atlanta, USA: two gold medals (women’s singles and doubles). Honours : Chinese Female Athlete of the Century. International Table Tennis Hall of Fame. The “Pocket Battleship” had her guns blazing from the time she first picked up a paddle at the age of five. The pint-sized bundle of energy was always going to make it to the top, winning an amateur title at nine and becoming a national champion as part of the Henan provincial team at 13. She was well poised to join up with the China squad but at just 1.5 metres tall she was deemed too short. She was not to be denied, though. Only two years later, in 1988 at the age of 15, she had finally made her way into the national team, launching a spectacular international career that would see her become one of China’s most successful athletes of all time. That year she won her first international title at the Asian Cup, and the following year became the youngest Chinese player to ever win a World Table Tennis Championship gold, in the women’s doubles event. Bookending a series of championship runs, Deng made her Olympic debut in 1992 in Barcelona. She took home gold medals in both the singles and doubles competitions, and defended both titles four years later in Atlanta. Two years later at the age of 25, Deng retired, ending her career at the top of the game. From 1990 to 1997 she was ranked as the top player in the world, and stepped down with more titles than any other player in history, including 18 World Championships in addition to her four Olympic gold medals. In 2003, Deng was honoured as the Chinese Female Athlete of the Century, and was also inducted into the International Table Tennis Hall of Fame. Lin Dan Badminton Born : October 14, 1983 (Longyan, Fujian). Notable Olympic performances : 2008 Summer Olympics , Beijing, China: gold (singles). 2012 Summer Olympics, London, UK: gold (singles). Lin Dan was a pioneer for a new era of Chinese sports stars. With his sporting success and movie star-like personality, he forged a path for Chinese athletes to break away from their previously staid reputations and become high-profile celebrities. Lin made news in the sports pages for his dominant performances on the badminton court and in the gossip columns for his happy-go-lucky lifestyle. A year after starting his professional badminton career, Lin took home singles gold at the Korea Open in 2002. It was the first of 66 titles he would claim over a two-decade career. Although he won six All England titles and five World Championships, Lin’s badminton career is defined by his fierce rivalry with Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, especially at the Olympic Games. Twice he had beaten Lee for the gold medal in the men’s singles, at the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Olympics. In between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Lin, nicknamed “Super Dan” by former world No 1 Peter Gade, became the first and only badminton player in history to complete the “Super Grand Slam,” securing gold across nine of the world’s biggest tournaments. Lin and Lee had their last Olympic showdown in 2016, in the singles semi-final. Although Lee had been denied the title in their two prior Olympic meetings, he got the best of Lin in Rio, although he went on to lose the final to Lin’s compatriot Chen Long. Lin announced his retirement on July 4, 2020. He finished as one of the most accomplished badminton players in history, with a career record of 666 wins to only 128 losses. In his defining rivalry with Lee Chong Wei, which consisted of 40 matches across a 12-year period, Lin finished with a decisive 28 wins to Lee’s 12. Fu Mingxia Diving (3m springboard) Born : August 16, 1978 (Wuhan, Hubei). Notable Olympic performances : 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona, Spain: gold (10m platform). 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, USA: two gold medals (10m platform, 3m springboard). 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney, Australia: gold (3m springboard); silver (3m synchronised springboard). Honours : 18 World Championship gold medals Fu Mingxia shot to prominence on the world stage at a young age at her international debut in Seattle, USA, and became the youngest diver – at 12 – to win gold at the World Championships. In Barcelona in 1992, Fu made her Olympic debut and became the second-youngest medal winner in Olympic history – and the youngest-ever in diving – when she took home gold in the 10m platform. Around this time, Fu also added the 3m springboard event to her arsenal and earned gold at the 1995 Diving World Cup. At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA, Fu successfully defended her 10m platform title, and also added a gold in the 3m springboard. This made the 18-year-old the first woman in 36 years to win gold in both events at a single Olympic Games. Following an abrupt interim retirement, Fu defended her 3m springboard title at the 2000 Sydney Games. Although she did not compete in her signature 10m platform event, she did enter the synchronised version of the event and won silver with partner Guo Jingjing. Fu’s victory in the 3m springboard makes her one of only three divers to win an Olympic double-double in the two main individual diving events. Li Ning Gymnastics (floor exercise, pommel horse, rings) Born : March 10, 1963 (Liuzhou, Guangxi). Notable Olympic performances : 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles, USA: three gold medals (floor exercise, pommel horse, rings). Honours : Inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2000. Li was the first Chinese inductee. Lit the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Li Ning is China’s original modern-day sporting superstar after his amazing gymnastic feats at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. A gymnast from the age of eight, Li joined the Chinese national team in 1980, and two years later earned the nickname “Prince of Gymnastics” after winning six of seven medals at the Gymnastics World Cup. Li, who began practising gymnastics at the age of eight, made his Olympic debut at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, the first Olympics where the People’s Republic of China was allowed to compete. Li lived up to his nickname in China’s return to the Olympic fold as he dominated the men’s events at the Games, taking home six medals, including three golds, two silvers and one bronze. Li was hoping to defend his three titles at the 1988 Games in Seoul, but a poor performance saw him miss out on all medals. Li left the mat permanently later that year, transitioning into a career as a successful entrepreneur, later becoming a billionaire. Li founded the sportswear company Li-Ning, and became the first Chinese inductee to the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2000. Li’s influence on Chinese sport during his peak cannot be understated. When Chinese football fans rioted in 1985 after a World Cup defeat at home to Hong Kong, mainland authorities rounded up the rioters and asked Li to lecture them on the etiquette of sportsmanship. Liu Guoliang Table tennis Born : January 10, 1976 (Xinxiang, Henan). Notable Olympic performances : 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, USA: two gold medals (singles, men’s doubles). 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney, Australia: silver (men’s doubles); bronze (singles). Liu Guoliang’s table tennis career may have been short but he made a spectacular impact on the sport during his brief professional career, becoming one of China’s most decorated stars. He took home two golds from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, winning in the singles and men’s doubles with partner Kong Linghui. He also took home titles from the 1996 World Cup, 1997 and 1999 World Doubles Championships, again with Kong, and later at the 1999 World Singles Championships. The sweep of victories made Liu only the second man to ever achieve a “grand slam”, taking titles in the three major international table tennis competitions. However, he failed to defend his Olympic title at the 2000 Games in Sydney, taking bronze in the men’s singles and silver in the doubles event. Liu retired two years later in 2002, but was shortly after appointed as head coach of the men’s national team. He is credited with helping the men’s team sweep the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, along with the golds earned at the 2012 and 2016 Games. In his time as coach up to 2018, the Chinese team have won every single men’s singles team title at the World Table Tennis Championship.