Reflective China braces for diminished haul

Wed Aug 17, 2016 3:00am EDT
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By Brenda Goh

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Defeats in sports dominated by China at previous Olympics have left the country in an unfamiliar third place on the medals table, with some predicting that Rio 2016 could witness the lowest haul in two decades.

Chinese athletes have so far failed to defend gold medals in some of their strongest events, such as badminton to diving, leading the country to sit behind the United States (28 golds) and Britain (19 golds) after 11 days of competition.

"You're kidding me? The country which has never finished above China is about to," state news agency Xinhua said on its official English-language Twitter account on Monday, alongside a photo of the medals tally. The tweet has since been deleted.

The ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily expressed particular disappointment at the performance of Chinese gymnasts, winners of just two bronze medals.

"People cannot but ponder - what on earth is up with them?" it wrote.

By the end of Tuesday's events, the team had accumulated 51 medals -- 17 golds, 15 silvers and 19 bronze -- and appear highly unlikely to get anywhere near the 38 gold medals China harvested in London four years ago.

"Since China's gold opportunities are concentrated in the first half, it will be hard for China to win more than 25 golds at this year's Olympics, the lowest of the last five Olympics," the China News Service said on Sunday.

China, which sent its largest overseas delegation of 416 athletes to Rio this year, won 16 golds in 1996 and 28 in 2000. It has ended the Games in second place since 2004 and boasted of a 51-gold bonanza in 2008, its highest ever tally, when it hosted the Beijing Olympics.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Artistic Gymnastics - Final - Men's Parallel Bars Final - Rio Olympic Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 16/08/2016. You Hao (CHN) of China falls. REUTERS/Mike Blake