The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

CHINA put a brave face on their worst Olympics for 20 years, but they will work hard to make sure they aren’t em­bar­rassed again in 2020, when the Games are hosted by arch-rivals Ja­pan.

A third-placed fin­ish on the medals ta­ble be­low the United States and Great Bri­tain made for a sobering Games after China tri­umphantly topped the stand­ings at Bei­jing 2008 and fin­ished sec­ond in 2012.

“You kid­ding me? The coun­try which has never fin­ished above China is about to,” splut­tered the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency, in a tweet that was later re­moved.

As well as their low­est gold medals tally (26) since At­lanta in 1996, China were also left smart­ing on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions dur­ing the Rio games.

Aus­tralia re­buffed China’s de­mand for an apol­ogy after Mack Horton called swim­ming ri­val Sun Yang a “drugs cheat”, an in­ci­dent which prompted a fu­ri­ous re­sponse from Chi­nese me­dia and web users.

Later, China com­plained, again to no avail, after the United States were al­lowed to re-run their women’s 4x100m heat, knock­ing the Chi­nese team out of the event and even­tu­ally win­ning gold.

A Xin­hua com­men­tary said the re­run was against the “Olympic spirit of fair­ness” and was “widely re­garded as ridicu­lous and un­fair”.

Liu Peng, head of China’s Olympic com­mit­tee, said China would learn lessons from Rio, when ris­ing stan­dards in other teams had taken them by sur­prise.

Tellingly, China brought a large but youth­ful team, with an av­er­age age of 24, the low­est of the past three Olympics.

Of the 410 ath­letes, the most China has ever taken to an Olympics away from home, 73 per­cent were at their first Games, Liu said.

It points to a re­build­ing phase ahead of Tokyo, the cap­i­tal of the for­mer Asian colo­nial power which still evokes bit­ter re­sent­ment among many Chi­nese.

“We have trained these [young] ath­letes but the train­ing isn’t enough,” he said.

“Be­cause when these ath­letes are fac­ing fierce com­pe­ti­tion and chal­lenges, they have too much to think about and too many men­tal bur­dens and they didn’t play at their high­est level.”

China won only one medal in swim­ming – down from five in 2012 – and two in bad­minton, after they swept all five ti­tles in Lon­don.

They re­mained dom­i­nant in ta­ble ten­nis and won seven gold medals in div­ing, but even there their rivals seemed to be clos­ing the gap.

In gym­nas­tics, where China won four gold medals in Lon­don, they won none at all in Rio, prompt­ing com­ments from the sport’s boss that China need to move with the times.

“They’ve re­mained trapped in a robotic style of train­ing,” FIG pres­i­dent Bruno Grandi told AFP.

China’s sil­ver lin­ing came in the be­hav­iour of their ath­letes, who re­vealed an un­usual hu­man side and won new fans at home and abroad.

Swim­mer Fu Yuan­hui shone through with her warm per­son­al­ity and hon­esty, even to the ex­tent of talk­ing about her pe­riod, while Qin Kai pro­posed to fel­low diver He Zi as she stepped off the Olympic podium.

Of­fi­cial me­dia also made great play of China’s sur­prise win against Ser­bia in women’s vol­ley­ball on Au­gust 20.

“To­day, the Chi­nese need the fight­ing spirit of the women’s vol­ley­ball team more than ever,” Xin­hua said in an edi­to­rial.

“As in­di­vid­u­als, liv­ing in a time of dras­tic change with both op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges, one needs the spirit to go sure-footed and step by step to reach afar.”

“To be a cham­pion, more than a cham­pion! May the fight­ing spirit of the Chi­nese women’s vol­ley­ball team be al­ways with us,” the edi­to­rial added.

Photo: AFP

Res­i­dents of Mangueira favela watch fire­works over Mara­cana Sta­dium dur­ing the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Au­gust 21.

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