The relentless Chinese march

When compared to the previous edition in Guangzhou, China’s gold haul in Incheon wasn’t flattering. However, the nation’s domination of the 2014 Asian Games was complete. By Kamesh Srinivasan.

China, the Olympic superpower, has set very high standards in the world of sports. The nation is at its best especially when hosting an event. Therefore, it was no surprise that China’s gold haul fell considerably in the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. It accounted for 151 gold medals in the 2014 Asian Games when compared to 199 in the previous edition at home in Guangzhou.

When it hosted the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990, China had won 183 gold medals. In the subsequent editions, the nation’s gold haul was 125 (1994: Hiroshima, Japan), 129 (1998: Bangkok, Thailand), 150 (2002: Busan, South Korea) and 166 (2006: Doha, Qatar).

To be fair to China, one must admit that many of the indoor games were taken off the list at the Incheon Asian Games. In fact, the number of disciplines was reduced from 42 to 36, cutting down the overall gold medals on offer, from 477 to 439.

While China tightened its grip over many disciplines such as athletics, swimming, shooting and table tennis, the experts noted that the nation continued to struggle in the most popular games such as football, basketball and volleyball. For the first time since 1998, the Chinese women lost the volleyball gold in Incheon.

The women athletes have proved to be China’s strength. They not only won 186 medals to 150 by the men, but also accounted for more number of gold medals — 83 to 67 by the men.

The Chinese swept all the gold medals (10) in diving. In shooting, the nation was as dominant as ever, winning 27 of the 44 gold medals on offer. With a haul of 15 gold medals — out of 47 — in athletics, the Chinese matched the combined power of Bahrain and Qatar, with imported athletes, in terms of gold won.

In swimming, China won 22 of the 38 gold medals at stake. In synchronised swimming, it swept all the three gold medals. In table tennis, it won six of the seven gold medals. In rowing, it won nine out of 14 gold medals and in badminton four out of seven. In wushu and weightlifting that had 15 gold medals each, China won 10 and seven respectively. In gymnastics, China won half of the 18 gold medals on offer.

China had many heroes, but none of them could match the deeds of the 20-year-old Japanese, Kosuke Hagino, who was adjudged the ‘Most Valuable Player’ for his haul of seven medals (four gold, one silver and two bronze) medals in swimming.

Lin Dan, the two-time Olympic champion and five-time World champion, won his second successive Asian Games singles gold in badminton, beating the reigning World champion Chen Long in the final. Dan defeated World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the semifinals.

Though he has not been competing much internationally of late, the 31-year-old Chinese said that he was looking forward to competing not just in the Rio Olympics but in Tokyo (2020) as well.

The double Olympic gold medallist Sun Yang of China was equally impressive, winning three gold medals in swimming. Another World and Olympic champion, Ye Shiwen, 18, also won three gold medals in swimming for China in the women’s section.

There were other Chinese swimmers such as Ning Zetao, Shen Duo and Chen Xinyi, who won three gold medals each. Cao Yifei and Ding Feng won three gold medals each in shooting.

In gymnastics, Yao Jinnan, 19, won the women’s individual all-round final, uneven bars and floor exercise gold medals to announce her readiness for the world stage.

World and Olympic silver medallist Sun Wenyan swept all the three gold medals in synchronised swimming, while Xu Xin, Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling scooped up two gold medals each in table tennis.

Xie Wenjun helped China maintain its hold on the men’s 110m hurdles, an event that had projected Chinese athletics to the world following the success of the World and Olympic champion Liu Xiang.

Chen Shiwei, Xie Zhenye, Su Bingtian and Zhang Peimeng powered China to the men’s 100m relay gold with an Asian record of 37.99s.

Zhao Qingang broke the 25-year-old Asian javelin record by clearing 89.15m.

The Chinese men’s team of Gu Xuesong, Qi Kaiguang and Yong Zhiwei beat world champion Korea in the semifinals and Malaysia in the final on way to winning the first gold medal for their nation in archery.

The second-seeded Wang Qiang, who had won the Delhi Open $25,000 ITF women’s event among many other titles on the professional circuit, won the women’s tennis singles gold, beating the top-seeded Luksika Kumkhum of Thailand 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the final.

Olympic silver medallist and former World champion Wang Yihan avenged her final loss in the London Games by beating compatriot Li Xuerui 11-21, 21-17, 21-7 in the women’s singles final in badminton. The manner in which China has been producing an unending supply of champions, who deliver on every stage with telling effect, especially in the Asian Games, is astounding.