China's golden haul breaks old duopoly

BEIJING - The debate over which nation would top the gold medal table at the Beijing Olympics was already well over by the time Chinese boxer Zou Shiming won the host nation's 50th gold medal on Sunday.

After four years of playing down expectations, China's medal-winning machine smashed the duopoly of the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia, one or the other of whom had topped the table at every Games since World War Two.

Chinese sports officials had said the country's weakness in athletics and swimming would make it hard for them to improve on a record 32 gold medals and second place at the 2004 Athens Games. They won 51 golds and a total of 100 medals.

Hosting the Games can certainly be a double-edged sword with the pressure of performing on home soil having to be measured against the boost to athletes from partisan crowds.

Shooter Du Li's failure to win the first gold of the Games was a result of the former but she bounced back to win gold in another event and China out-performed their expectations in team sports.

The United States, who won most golds at the previous three Games, ended second in the table with 36 golds to match their Athens tally and won the overall medal count with 110 golds, silvers and bronzes.

"We consider this one of our most successful Olympic Games ever," U.S. Olympic Committee president Jim Scherr told the American media.

"The team will surpass the total medal count in Athens, but that doesn't tell the whole story. We earned medals and high finishes in sports and disciplines we did not think we could do a few short years ago."


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