OLYMPIC BADMINTON, SHOOTING, WEIGHTLIFTING IN CHINA

BADMINTON IN CHINA

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Yu Yang and Du Jing
At the 2004 Olympics in Athens China won five medals in badminton, taking three out of five gold medals. Zhang Jun and Gao Ling won the mixed doubles gold medal, defeating a British pair. Zhang Ning won the the women’s singles gold, beating Indonesian-born Dutch Mia Audina in the gold medal match 8-11, 11-6, 11-7. Zhang Jiewen and Yang Wei won the gold medal in the women’s doubles, beating fellow Chinese and silver medalists Huang Sui and Gao Ling in gold medal match 7-15, 15-4, 15-8.

Chinese athletes also dominated badminton at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney , winning four out of five gold medals there.

Lin Dan won his third consecutive men’s singles title in the World Badminton Championship in Kuala Lumpur in 2007. Chinese also won the women’s singles and double crowns at the event. In the 1980s three Chinese players were individual world champion in badminton a record two times: Yang Yang (men's 1987 and 1989), Li Ling Wei (women's in 1983 and 1989) and Han Aiping (women's in 1985 and 1987).

In April 2008, China’s No. 1 badminton player, Lin Dan, reportedly punched his coach. In his blog Lin denied that he did such a thing.

Badminton is a popular recreation sport in China.

Good Websites and Sources on the Olympics in China: Chinese Olympic Committee en.olympic.cn ; China.org on China’s Olympic History china.org.cn ; Official Site for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing en.beijing2008.cn ; Database on Olympic Athletes databaseolympics.com ; Success of Chinese Athletes pponline.co.uk ; Photos of Chinese Kids Training freshpics.blogspot.com ; Book: Olympic Dreams by Wu Guoqi hup.harvard.edu ; The Red Face, a Film About Olympic Training Epoch Times ; High Altitude Training chinasportstoday.com ; Book: Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008 by Xu Gouqi

Good Websites and Sources on Sports in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; China Sports Today chinasportstoday.com ; China Daily Sports chinadaily.com.cn ; China Sports Review chinasportsreview.com ; China Sports Blog chinasports.wokpopcorn.com ; South China Morning Post Sports scmp.com ; Sports in Ancient China Chinese Olympic Committee ; Traditional Sports Travel China Guide

Links in this Website: THE 2008 OLYMPICS IN BEIJING Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE ATHLETES AT THE 2008 OLYMPICS Factsanddetails.com/China ; OPENING CEREMONY AND STARS AT THE 2008 OLYMPICS IN BEIJING Factsanddetails.com/China ; OLYMPICS AND CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE OLYMPIC ATHLETES Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE OLYMPIC TRAINING Factsanddetails.com/China ; OLYMPIC SPORTS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; OLYMPIC SWIMMING AND DIVING IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; OLYMPIC TRACK AND RUNNING IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; LIU XIANG Factsanddetails.com/China ; OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; OLYMPIC BADMINTON, SHOOTING WEIGHTLIFTING IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; RECREATION IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA---OLYMPICS Factsanddetails.com/China

Badminton at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

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Super Dan
China won three out of five badminton gold medals (the men’s singles, and women’s singles and doubles) and took two silvers (men’s team, women’s singles) and two bronze (men’s singles and mixed doubles). Among those who showed up to watch was the world’s richest man Bill Gates. He saw Chinese champion Bao Chunlai beat Guatemala’s Kevin Cirdon in the men’s singles. Asked if he was a badminton fan, Gates replied, “I became one.”

Describing the action at a badminton game, Tom Boswell wrote in the Washington Post, “In most sports the serve is powerful. In badminton they just dink the “bird” softly over the net. After that, all heck breaks loose. You can barley see the birdie, or shuttlecock, as it get clobbered so hard and so often at close quarters, smash, dive, leap---nonstop action. But after a while incomprehensible.”

The shuttlecock used in badminton is made from 16 goose feathers stuck into a piece of cork. The cone shape is so aerodynamic that it has influenced the designs for spacecraft. The flexibility of the shuttlecocks makes it different from balls used in other sports. The cone shape allows it to accelerate to a high speed. The feathers create a drag that causes it to slow down at a much faster rate than, say, a tennis ball. Shuttlecocks can reach speed of between 160 and 206mph. This is faster than a squash ball (151mph) or a tennis ball (155mph).

Badminton Players at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

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Zhang Ning
Top-seed Lin Dan overpowered Malaysia’s Lee Ching in straight sets to win the gold medal in the men’s single in badminton. In control from the start, Lin easily beat No. 2 seed Lee, a Malaysian Chinese, 21-12, 21-8. Lin beat compatriot Chen Jin in the semifinals.

Defending champion Zhang Nin defeated teammate Xie Xingfang 21-12, 10-21, 21-18 to win the gold medal in the women’s single in badminton. Thirty-three-year Zhang was the No 2 seed and Xie was No. 1.

Hampered by an injured right knee, Zhang said that winning the second gold was much more difficult than the first. “I thought I was too old in Athens” she said, “I haven’t felt good physically but I persevered and did a lot of training to win this gold. Tenacity was the key.” Xie expressed similar sentiments, “I have already struggled my best. I am too tired to continue. I never told others before that my body is full of injuries...For this Olympics, I tolerated a lot of pain which cannot be tolerated by ordinary people.”

Lin Dan is a big celebrity in China. Only the second player to win back-to-back Olympic singles titles, he is known for his good looks, spiky hair and fiery temper and sometimes called “Super Dan.” voted the “most international” man in China by For Him, a popular fashion magazine, and selected China’s most popular athlete in an Internet survey, he can hit a shuttlecock over 180 mph, faster than the best tennis serve (155 mph). Admired by nationalists, he is an officer in the People’s Liberation Army and wore a Mao pin while competing. Lin Dan’s girlfriend, Lie Xingfang, was favored to win the gold in women’s badminton but won a silver.

Du Jing and Yu Yang won the gold medal in women’s doubles and Wei Yili and Zhang Yawen won the bronze medal. The top seed Chinese pair and defending Olympics champions Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen were upset in the quarter finals by unseeded Japanese pair Satoko Suetsuna and Miyuki Maeda. Yang was the lone returner from the Chinese team that swept all five badminton events at Sydney in 2000. China won three out of five badminton gold medals in Athens.

Shooting

Shooters have to stand absolutely still, They wear shoes that are slightly concave through the entire foot. This allows the body weight to flatten almost to the ground to provide anchorage. Shoes the cover the ankle are prohibited because they provide too much stability and are regarded as an unfair advantage.

Firearms were registered in advance and a large amount of paperwork was necessary to bring them on the plane and bring them into China. Once they were put in the plane as checked luggage the guns could not be touched until they were delivered at the shooting venue in China. Local police meet the plane at the airport and athletes verifyied that the guns were theirs, matching serial numbers to their documentation. After that the police took the guns to the competition site and locked them in an armory until athletes arrive for practice. Ammunition was brought separately by the I.O.C.

Chinese Shooting

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Qiu Jian, gold medalist in 2008
The Chinese are good in shooting, a sport Chinese have traditionally had little interest in and were not very good at until the Chinese sports bureaucracy singled it out as sport to develop in part because there wasn’t much competition and China had a good chance of getting medals in it.

Chinese shooters have won the first awarded gold medals in several Olympics Xu Haifeng took the first gold medal at the Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and Du Lin took the first medal, in the 10-meter air rifle, at the Games in Athens in 2004.

Xu Haifeng became a nation hero in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympics when he won China’s first gold medal, in the 50-meter rifle. When asked if he would trade that medal for 10 Olympic titles he said, “No absolutely not. That gold medal is the milestone of China’s Olympic development. It is part of history.”

Xu later said, “I didn’t know it was the first gold in the Games and I never expected to win.” Xu told AP in 2008, “A lot of people ask me when I was awarded the gold, why I wasn’t smiling. As an athlete it’s my job and honor to do the best that I can. The other explanation was I only began practicing shooting in 1982. By the time I won the gold, it all happened so fast.

Xu was born in 1957. After retiring he became a coach and helped nurture numerous world and Olympic champions. He then moved onto the national modern pentathlon team and helped Qian Zhenhia to win China’s first-ever world title in the 2006 world championships in that sport.

Wang Yifu won medals in the 10-meter air rifle in the Olympics in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Shooting at the 2004 Athens Olympics

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Wang Yifu. 2004 gold
medalist in 10 meter pistol
At the 2004 Olympics in Athens China won nine medals in shooting. Zhang Sha was the first woman to win an Olympics event contested by both men and women. China’s Li Du took the first gold medal of the games with a victory in the women’s 10 meter air rifle. Li, a 22-year-old student at the time, was also the world record holder in the event. She won on the last shot with a score of 10.6 defeating Russian Luybov Galkna, who had led the entire event only had a score of 9.7 on her final shot. Li’s overall score of 502 points was a new Olympic record.

Also at the 2004 Olympics in Athens Zhu Qinan won a gold medal in the men’s 10 meter air rifle, with team mate Li Jie taking the silver in the same event; Forty-three-year-old Wang Yifu, the oldest member of the Chinese Olympic team, won a gold medal in the men’s 10 meter air pistol, his sixth Olympic medal. Wang Zheng won a bronze medal in the men’s double trap; Gao won a bronze medal in the women’s double trap.

Yang Ling broke the world's record in the running target shooting event in 2002 with a score of 590 out of 600. Her record was broken by a German at the Olympics is Athens in 2004.

Shooting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

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Guo Wenjun
China won eight shooting medals, including four gold medals . There were great expectations for the team, which won four gold medals and nine medals in total in 2004. Some thought they might take gold in 10 of the 15 events, The coach had hired a psychologist to get shooters in the proper mood and help them overcome jitters associated with the pressure of performing well in front of the home crowd. Coach Wang Yifu said, “Home soil may be an advantage in other sports. But in shooting we call it the “home venue curse.” “Whispers and noise,” he said distract the shooters, “Mother tongue interference and home venue pressure are the biggest obstacles. “

Qiu Jian won a gold medal in the men’s 50-meter rifle three positions event. American Matt Emmons blew his chance for a gold medal on the final shot when he accidently squeezed the trigger just before he was ready to fire, scoring only 4.4 (compared to usual scores of between 7 and 10), and blowing a comfortable 3.3 point lead. In Athens in 2004 he blew what seemed like a sure gold medal when he fired at the wrong target.

Pang Wei won a gold medal in the men’s 10-meter air pistol. Zhu Qinan took a silver medal in the men’s 10-meter air rifle. Tan Zongliang won a silver medal in the men’s 50-meter air pistol. And Hu Binyuan grabbed a bronze medal in the men’s double trap.

Chen Ying won te gold medal in the women’s 25-meter pistol. She came from behind in the early stages and remained cool in the final stages to come away with the gold.

Guo Wenjun won the gold medal in the women’s 10-meter air pistol. Guo was raised and introduced to shooting by her father after her parents became divorced. But when she was 15 she was abandoned by her father who left a note with her coach that said, “I’m going far away, I want you to treat Wenjun as your own daughter and help her do her very best.”

The Chinese Daily newspaper reported that her sense of abandonment caused her drop out of training several items as she worked up from a city team to the national team in 2006. She nearly quit the sport completely ui 2006. Her coach told the newspaper that Guo told him, “I’ll do well in the Games, and my dad will see me and be proud.”

Du Li

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Du Li gets a gold
Du Li was expected to win the first awarded gold medal of the Olympics, in the women’s 10-meter air rifle as she died in Athens in 2004 but she finished a disappointing fifth. Du won the gold medal in 10-meter air rifle in Athens in 2004 with a last shot of 10.6 points.

A liquor company offered the shooting team a $1.4 million prize if any of its members rook home the first gold medal. Du kept a stiffer upper lip during the opening round of interviews but lost it after talking to her coach by cell phone. A video tape showed repeatedly on Chinese television showed her running from the shooting range in shame after the competition. Afterwards she cried and cried, saying, “I tried very hard. But I didn’t achieve it” and said she was considering dropping out of the Olympics. Internet chatter didn’t show much sympathy. An entry on one Chinese bulletin board read, “The state spent so much money on you, provided you with such good facilities, gave you four years to train...You disappoint your countrymen.”

Wang Jin, an expert on “choking at Zheijain University, told the Washington Post, “The gold she could have won is the first Olympic gold medal for Chinese athletes in their home country. It was an opportunity in a thousand years...So it is more important than any other gold medals. It is a regret you can never compensate for.”

Du Li, a diminutive athlete who only weighs 53 kilograms, came back a few days later and shed more tears, this time tears of joy, for her gold medal in the 50-meter three-position rifle event. She beat out Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic who won opening 10-meter air rifle event. She said she received many postcards of encouragement and that pushed her. She thanked Emmons, who consoled her after the loss in the 10-meter rife. Emmons later said she felt sorry for Du after the loss she wanted to give Du the flowers presented to her when she won the gold medal.

Du was born in a coal-ming area of Shandong Province. She was first scouted by a sports school teacher who recognized that she had perfect vision. He wanted to train her but Du’s father, a policeman who wanted her to go to college and become lawyer, refused. It was only after intervention by her grandfather that she was allowed to pursue shooting. In her first competition she was so stressed that she fainted but came to love the sport so much she paid for her own training. Today she describes herself as a typical women in her 20s who likes shopping, listening to music and watching videos.

Zhu Qinan, another favorite in the 10 meter rifle, left the shooting range after her failure to take a medal. “My craving for gold was much more than last time. I fought hard with my inner self, but it was really hard.”

Weightlifting

The Chinese are good in weightlifting, especially women’s weightlifting, a sport Chinese have traditionally had little interest in and were not very good at until the Chinese sports bureaucracy singled it out as sport to develop in part because there wasn’t much competition and China had a good chance of getting medals in it.

Weightlifters let out a variety of grunts and yells when they lift weights that are generally more than double their body weights. They wear shoes with wedge-shaped wooden soles designed for maximum stability and that make squatting easier.

Chinese Weightlifting

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woman weightlifter
China has become a major force in Olympic weightlifting, especially in the light and medium-weight divisions. There are 300 weightlifting clubs and 1,000 coaches in China. Olympic gold medalist Liu Chunhong told AP: “Weightlifting is very popular in China and a lot of people practice exercise.”

Chinese women are particularly strong in weightlifting. They have set many world records and have dominated woman’s weightlifting since it became an Olympic sport in 2000.

China won four of seven gold medals in women's weightlifting at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens China won eight medals in weightlifting.

Shi Zhiyong won a gold medal in men’s 62 kilogram weightlifting division at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and did a back flip after he won. Countryman Le Maosheng won the silver. Wu Meijin won a silver medal in men’s 56 kilogram event

Zhan Gouzheng won a gold medal in men’s 69 kilogram weightlifting division in Athens despite the fact that he stumbled off the stage after his lift. He jerked 187.5 kilograms, snatched 160 kilograms, for a total lift of 347.5 kilograms. He is the current world records holder and was especially pleased with the gold in Athens because he just missed a medal with a forth place finish at Sydney in 2000.

Chinese Women Weightlifters

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Chen Yanqing
Liu Chunhong won a gold medal in women’s 69 kilogram division at the Athens Olympics at the age of 19, breaking her own three world records in snatch, jerk and total. She jerked 153 kilograms, more than twice her body weight, snatched 122 kilograms for a total of 275 kilograms. While other lifters grunted, flinched and quivered as they lifted, Liu raised her weights with relative ease and seemed almost disappointed, telling reporters, “Ill go back to China and continue to train and be ready for the next games and achieve better results.”

Chen Yanqing won a gold medal in women’s 58 kilogram weightlifting division in Athens. It was her first major title since winning the 1999 world championships in Athens. Her team mate Li Zhuo won the silver medal. In December 2006, Chen lifted a world record 111 kilograms in the snatch to win a gold medal in the women’s 58-kilogram division at the Asian Games. She beat the record set by fellow Chinese Wang Li in 2003.

Tang Gonghong won the gold medal and broke world records in the clean and jerk and total lift in the woman’s super-heavyweight division in Athens. She lifted 402 pounds in her final attempt in the clean and jerk, breaking her record of 385.5 pounds. She needed the record lift to overcome her rival Jang Mi Ran of South Korea. Tang’s total was 672 pounds. In December 2006, Tang lifted a world record 136 kilograms in the snatch to win a gold medal in the women’s superheavyweight division at the Asian Games.

In November 2005, Wang Mingjuam set two world records at the World Weightlifting champions in Doha. She lifted a record 117 kilograms in the clean and jerk.

In November 2005, teen star Gu Wei shattered two world records while winning the women 58 kilogram division at the World Weightlifting champions in Doha. She lifted a record 139 kilograms in the clean and jerk and 102 kilograms in the snatch for a record total lift of 241 kilograms.

Zhang Gouzheng is a two time world champion as of 2004. She won the 2003 world championship in the 69-kilogram category with a snatch lift of 152.5 kilograms and a clean-and-jerk lift of 192.5 kilograms, for a winning total of 345 kilograms.

Weightlifting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

China dominated weightlifting at the Beijing Olympics, winning eight of nine golds available to them, mostly in the lighter weight classes, and grabbed a silver in the one division it didn’t win. Between lifts members of the team wore gold capes.

China perhaps could have done better but was limited as were other teams to four places in the six women’s events and five in the men’s events. In some cases China could have replaced their top weightlifters with their second or third best lifters and still won gold medals.

Women’s Weightlifting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

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Cao Lei
Defending her Olympic title, Liu Chunhing won the gold medal in the women’s 69-kilogram class with three world records: a world record clean and jerk of 158 kilograms and a world record snatch of a 128 kilograms, for a total of 286 kilograms, also a world record, breaking the previous mark by an astounding 10 kilograms. She started her snatch lifts at five kilograms heavier than the heaviest weight lifted by her competitors.

Liu was happy about the victory and also happy to have a break from her training. She told AP, “What I want the most at this moment is to spend some time with my parents. Since the last Olympics until now I have only spent six days with my parents.”

Chen Yanqing broke two world records on the way to winning the gold medal in the women’s 58-kilogram category, with a snatch of 106 kilograms and a clean and jerk of 138 kilograms for a total of 244 kilograms. The first woman to win two gold medals in weightlifting, she won in Athens in 2004, lifting 15.4 kilograms less than she did in 2008. “In 2004, I won the gold medal for myself,” she said. “Today I won it for all my supporters and fans,” and confessed she almost quit three times.

Cao Lei won the gold medal in the women’s 75 kilogram division. Mu Shuanggshu, a favorite in the super-heavyweight division, did not even compete because China had already reached its limit of weightlifters.

Chen Xiexia, the First Chinese Gold Medalist in Beijing

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Chen Xiexie
Chen Xiexia won China’s first gold medal of the Beijing Games, in the 48-kilogram division of women’s weightlifting. She lifted 95 kilograms in the snatch and 117 kilograms in the clean and jerk for a total of 212 kilograms, 13 kilograms more than the silver medal winner. In dramatic fashion she didn’t even begin the snatch until all of her competitors had done their three lifts and appeared in an imperial-yellow robe when it was time to do her lift. She snapped the 117-kilogram weight to her chest, hoisted it overhead, seemingly easily, and threw it down on the mat.

Afterwards she said, “I had been thinking of winning a medal, but never thought it would turn out to be the first gold medal for China...I don’t think I was under great pressure. The first gold won is gold, the last gold won is gold. It’s not especially significant to me...I didn’t feel anything special. I’m very happy and I think I did a very good job.”

Chen is from a poor village in the poor county of Ganlan in the remote, rural district of Panyu. Her father supported his family of five on his $570 annual earnings as a banana farmer. He had to borrow money to keep his daughter enrolled in a sports school. On his dream for her, he said, “I didn’t think about what would happen to her. I had no expectations.”

Chen trained in Guangzhou (Canton). At the time of the Olympics she was 25 years old, stood five feet tall and weighed 108 pounds. To get herself psyched up she let out a unique two-syllable shout. Her biggest challenge was making the Chinese team. Among those that vied for the single spot in her division was 2006 world champions Yang Lian. In the Olympic competition she made all six of her lifts, each higher than her opponent’s’s best lift. Chen was expected to make between $700,000 and $1.4 million as a result of her victory.

Men’s Weightlifting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

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Lu Yong
Seventeen-year-old Long Qingquan won the gold medal in the men’s 56-kilogram category, lifting 132 kilograms in the snatch and 160 kilograms in the clean and jerk for a total of 292 kilograms. The Chinese press described him as “exuberant and fearless.” It was his international debut.

In the late 1990s Long’s family borrowed $5,700 to send him to a distant sports school, His father told Sports Illustrated, “We are peasants. So he can only do weightlifting to be somebody.” Long hadn’t seen his parentst for four years when he competed in Beijing. His parents watched him compete on a 29-inch television purchased for them by the government for the occasion. Long said he hoped to free his parents from their 11-hour work days and seven day work weeks at a chemical-supplies factory.

Long told Sports Illustrated that he didn’t expect his life to change much. “I know I’m getting a lot of attention,” he said, “and if I go out in the street---which I haven’t yet since I won the gold---a lot of people would probably recognize me. I rarely go out anyway.”

Zhang Xiangxiang won the gold medal in the men’s 62-kilogram category, lifting 143 kilograms in the snatch and 176 kilograms in the clean and jerk for a total of 319 kilograms. It was his second medal. He took a bronze in Sydney in 2000. “I’ve been waiting for this gold medal for eight years,” he said. “This time on this stage has been a perfect ending to my career.” In his event half the competitors dropped out following failed lift attempts.

Liao Hui won the gold medal in the men’s 66-kilogram category and Lu Yong won the gold medal in the men’s 85-kilogram category. Li Hongli won the silver medal in the men’s 77-kilogram category, narrowly losing the gold to Sa Jae-hyouk of South Korea.

Image Sources: Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad Official website, Xinhua, Getty

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2010

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