Massive medal haul can't gloss over problems

Updated: 2014-10-09 07:56

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily)

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Despite a massive lead on the final medal table, China's Asian Games campaign was far from perfect, said Xiao Tian, deputy delegation chief, citing poor performances in the big-ball sports and major Olympic events.

Winning 151 gold medals, 25 more than the combined totals of Japan and host South Korea, proved China's continued supremacy in the Asian sports community but that still was not enough to cement its status as a world sports power, Xiao said.

"We achieved some breakthroughs in some key events but still, in most of the events we won, the results would not have been competitive enough against the world's elite at the Olympics," Xiao said at the final briefing in Incheon.

"The competition level at the Asiad was much lower than the world's best in most of the events. Out of the 151 golds we claimed only about 30 were won with Olympic-caliber results against world-class opponents. So we need to stay calm about the big margin in medal numbers, which won't necessarily translate to our advantage at the Olympics."

Xiao's concern was highlighted by the three big-ball teams' humiliating performances at the Asiad, where none of the six big-ball squads, men's and women's basketball, soccer and volleyball, managed to win a gold medal, the worst outcome since 1978.

Chinese athletes also unexpectedly lost in some of traditionally strong events.

In badminton, China lost the men's teams final and the men's and women's doubles finals, finishing with four gold medals out of the seven on offer, a major decline compared to its clean sweep at the 2012 London Olympics.

China's dominant weightlifting team surrendered its supremacy in Incheon, allowing neighboring DPR Korea to set five of the nine weightlifting world records at the Asiad.

"In terms of taking the Asiad as a test of our preparations for the 2016 Olympics Games, we didn't deliver at the level we were supposed to in some key events, which has sounded a wakeup call for us," Xiao said.

"We won so many medals but still couldn't reach the world's elite level in high-profile events like the big-ball games. The Chinese sports circle should have a deep self-reflection on these issues."

Still, some major breakthroughs in track and field, which used to be China's Achilles' heel on the world sporting stage, made up for losses elsewhere.

Featuring a younger generation of athletes who trained under an international coaching crew from the United States and Europe, the squad claimed 40 medals including 15 golds to sit atop the track and field table.

The men's 4��100m relay team smashed the previous Asian record held by Japan to win the gold in 37.99 seconds. The result was the fourth fastest in the world this year and would have earned the team a medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

In the men's javelin, Zhao Qinggang stunned the world with an impressive 89.15-meter throw, which broke Japanese Kazuhiro Mizoguchi's 25-year-old Asian record, to win the gold. Zhao's new AR distance would have won the title at the 2013 World Championships and the London Olympics.

"The great performances at the Asiad boosted our confidence for next year's World Championships (in Beijing) and for the 2016 Olympics," Du Zhaocai, director of the state administration of athletics, said at the track and field team's sum-up briefing.

"Our major breakthroughs should be attributed to foreign training and competitive programs which helped our athletes gain more international exposure and experience against high-level opponents."

However, some Western Asian countries like Qatar and Bahrain, which sent naturalized African athletes to Incheon, ate into China's haul in track and field, but the Chinese athletes have responded positively to the new Asian challenge.

"I don't worry about it at all. I think their strong presence will encourage us to reach a higher level. It's a positive," Chinese male sprinter Su Bingtian said of Nigerian-Qatari athlete Femi Ogunode's victory in the 100m final.

 Massive medal haul can't gloss over problems

Chinese synchronized swimming team members take a selfie with their gold medals at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. The country swept the pool in the three synchronized events. However, China failed to impress in major team sports like soccer, basketball and volleyball. Lee Jin-man / Associated Press

(China Daily 10/09/2014 page24)