China tops medal count as Tokyo Olympics gets into full swing

Gerry Harker Published July 26, 2021

Team China, a massive 777-person delegation this year, came to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with high hopes of gold medaling in events such as table tennis, diving, weightlifting, gymnastics, badminton, and shooting. So far, China leads in overall medals, if not the gold it aims for, where it narrowly trails Japan and the U.S.

China’s first weekend in the 17-day competition started off with a bang, as 21-year-old shooter Yáng Qiàn 杨倩 capitalized on a mistake by Russian competitor Anastasiia Galashina to take home the first gold medal of the Games, in the women’s 10 m air rifle.

Meanwhile, weightlifters Hóu Zhìhuì 侯志慧, Chén Lìjūn 谌利军, and Lǐ Fābīn 李发彬 all performed to expectations, racking up a gold each in their events, accounting for half of China’s golds so far.

But the women’s soccer team had a disappointing start, and a major upset occurred today when Japan edged out China in mixed doubles table tennis.

Here are some of the highlights for China from the first few days of Olympic competition:

Three golds in weightlifting as athletes perform to expectations

As expected, China has started the Games very strongly in weightlifting, taking home three for three gold medals, with further golds expected to come.

Hóu Zhìhuì 侯志慧, in the lightweight (48 kg) women’s division, kicked off the gold medal run by dominating in both the clean and jerk and snatch, setting new Olympic records in both disciplines to give her a new overall Olympic record and gold.

In the men’s lightweight divisions, Chén Lìjūn 谌利军 and Lǐ Fābīn 李发彬 both had scares before coming through to both grab a gold each.

Chen had to come from behind to secure gold in the men’s 67 kg category. The 28-year-old found himself five kilograms down to Luis Mosquera Lozano after a poor showing in the snatch. Setting a weight of 145 on the first lift, Chen couldn’t overcome the 151 kg weight in his second and third attempts. On the other hand, Colombian Mosquera Lozano was able to hit the 151 mark on his third lift.

Six kilos down heading into the clean and jerk, Chen was aware that he would probably have to set a new personal record to secure the gold and push Mosquera Lozano back into second. Both athletes started with a 175 lift before Chen piled on the weights to lift an incredible 187 kgs. The new Olympic record, a single kilo behind the World Record, was too much for Mosquera Lozano to overcome. Lifting 180 in his final lift, the Colombian was forced to settle for second place, a single kilogram behind the Chinese champion.

Meanwhile, in the men’s 61 kg final, Li Fabin saw his main rival, Eko Yuli Irawen, falter to give China a third weightlifting gold.

Setting a new overall Olympic record, including a new clean and jerk mark, Li’s consistency ended up being the deciding factor of the event. The Indonesian and current clean and jerk world record holder, Irawen, after setting 165 in his first lift, attempted to break his own world record in his second — a mark that would have given him a certain gold. However, the Indonesian faltered, handing Li gold.

Weightlifting for China continues until August 2. China is expected to compete for gold in women’s heavyweight divisions slated for August 1 and 2.

A first-ever women’s épée gold for China

Sūn Yīwén 孙一文 won a dramatic overtime finish against Romanian Ana Maria Popescu to secure China’s first gold in the women’s épée competition in fencing.

The Rio bronze medalist found herself leading for most of the final against her Romanian opponent. However, in the concluding seconds of the match, Popescu was able to score a point on Sun to take the match and have a dramatic overtime finish.

Thankfully for Sun, she held her nerve and secured the final blow on Popescu to give China its third overall gold on the opening day of the Games.

China wins first gold of the Games in shooting

Yáng Qiàn 杨倩 got the Chinese Olympic medal train rolling early after securing the first gold medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the women’s 10 m air rifle.

Despite starting the opening round down in sixth place overall, the Chinese shooter was able to push all the way until the final to secure the win. Although the 21-year-old was trailing in the final round to Russian Anastasiia Galashina, Yang held her nerve to capitalize on a wayward last shot from her Russian opponent.

Elsewhere in the shooting events, China secured a silver and three bronze medals to add to the already bulging medal count. In the men’s 10 m air rifle, Shèng Lǐháo 盛李豪 finished second, with countryman Yáng Hàorán 杨浩然 in third behind American William Shaner, who set a new Olympic record to give the U.S. gold.

Shooting runs until August 2 with Chinese athletes competing in most events. The women’s 25 m pistol on July 30 should be a tense affair with Chinese favorite Xióng Yàxuān 熊亚瑄 going for gold.

China women’s soccer disappoints

Despite entering the tournament with great hopes, the China women’s soccer team is facing an early tournament group stage exit.

A thrashing against Brazil and a poor draw against Zambia has left Team China with a do-or-die clash against the Netherlands to perhaps secure a place in the quarterfinals.

In the opening game against Brazil, China found itself on the wrong end of a 5-0 hiding from the South Americans.

The defensive solidity that China had shown against Australia and South Korea during the Olympic qualifying tournament all but disappeared as the backline struggled to deal with the movement and ball playing of the Brazilian forwards and midfield.

International women’s soccer legend Marta, who has over 160 caps for her nation, outshone her opposite number, China’s star, Wáng Shuāng 王霜.

While the 5-0 drubbing against Brazil was hard to take, what was more disappointing was the 4-4 draw against Zambia.

China, ranked 15th in the world, needed a late penalty to secure a draw against the 104 ranked women’s team globally.

With the defense still clearly reeling from the Brazil game, China struggled to cope with Babra Banda in the center of the field, giving the Zambia team acres of space. China certainly did not look like a team that is ranked 89 places behind them.

The only bright spark for China was Wang Shuang, who scored all four of China’s goals.

China will now face the Netherlands in the final group stage match on July 27. A win is the only result that will give China a place in the next round as one of the best third-placed teams. The Netherlands, which scored 10 (TEN!) against Zambia and held Brazil 3-3, are currently sitting on top of the group.

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