In Tokyo, Beijing’s strategy had delivered, until noon Thursday, 14 gold medals, ahead of the United States and Japan for the lead. China captured the Games’ first gold in the women’s 10-meter air rifle and claimed their first victory in fencing. (Sports in which China is dominant are clustered in the first week of the Games, while U.S. forces are dispersed.)
But in some of China’s traditional strongholds, such as table tennis, diving and weightlifting, hopes for golden victories have not materialized. There were other disappointments before the start of the Games. A top swimmer has been banned for doping. The men’s soccer, volleyball and basketball teams failed to qualify.
The sacrifices made by the Chinese Olympians are intense. Academic education in sports schools remains paltry and some world champions share dormitories with others. They have the chance to see their family a few times a year.
After Chinese athlete Liao Qiuyun competed in the 55 kilo category on Monday, a journalist from his home province sent him a message from his parents.
For weightlifters, the costs of the Chinese sports system are much higher. While divers and gymnasts must share the proceeds of sponsorship agreements with the state, they can at least build on their success after retirement. But advertisers don’t tend to be drawn to weightlifters.