Updated: 2012-08-22 07:20

(China Daily)

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The women's Olympics

When Chairman Mao Zedong said, "women hold up half the sky", no one imagined how China would eventually overstate that in international sport.

Nowhere has the opportunity for women to lead a country in global competitions been more dramatically evident than in the standings of the United States and China at the London 2012 Olympics - the highest and second highest winners of medals. In both cases women accounted for a disproportionately high share of their country's medals, even more so for the US.

Women led the medals' tally in seven of the 20 events that China won medals in, and in 14 of the 21 that the US did, while Chinese men led in only two and American men in three.

Women's share was even with men's in half of the events that China won medals in, including the high tallies in diving, swimming, badminton, weightlifting, shooting and table tennis, and in five of the US', including its highest tallies in athletics and gymnastics.

Women gymnasts were a big letdown for China. But American and Chinese women were stronger in cycling, rowing and combat sports, although US men excelled in wrestling.

Chinese women won marginally more gold medals than men, while American women really outperformed their male counterparts, taking nearly 66 percent of the gold medals. Chinese women were better than their male counterparts in diving and shooting, but the men made up for it in gymnastics and athletics.

Women bagged more gold medals than men in 13 of the 21 events that the US won gold in, while the men exceeded the women in only three. American women took 66 percent of the athletics gold medals, but won only 1 more gold than their male partners in swimming.

The only other country with a disproportionately high share of female medalists was Russia, but it was more because of a decline in men's performance. In fact, the country's performance has not exactly been improving over the years.

The mid-high medal-winning countries have a generally even share of male and female medalists. It is from the list of fewer medal-winning countries that women medalists are notably absent, and that's where the share of American and Chinese women's came from. This is the lesson that countries that want to get ahead have to learn from China and the US.

Robert Blohm, via e-mail

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(China Daily 08/22/2012 page9)