China surpass Athens success

Beijing, August 17:

China ensured the Olympic Games will go down as their greatest, reaching 35 gold medals to overtake their previous best of 32 in Athens with a week of competition remaining.

After spending more than $40 billion on staging the Games, China wanted to showcase themselves on the world stage. But while they have a clear 16 medal lead over the United States who have won 19 finals, the most dominant performer has been American swimmer Michael Phelps.

The busiest day of the Games, with 37 finals, proved to be auspicious for China where eight is a lucky number — Games star Phelps won his eighth gold and the Chinese team won a total of eight to post their record Games performance. Their 33rd gold came in the women’s team table tennis final where Guo Yue and Zhang Yining won the decisive doubles rubber against Singapore. The significance of the achievement was highlighted by President Hu Jintao being in the VIP box alongside IOC President Jacques Rogge.

Jamaica and Great Britain also stepped into the limelight with Jamaica completing sprint dominance a day after Usain Bolt became the fastest man on earth winning the 100m gold in world record time. The Jamaican women swept the women’s 100m final with Shelly-Ann Fraser a surprise winner of her higher acclaimed teammates Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson.

At the other end of the running spectrum, Romanian mother of two Constantina Tomescu raced away with the gruelling women’s marathon in a time of 2hours 26minutes 44seconds. British athletes enjoyed their most successful day, sitting down to win four golds in cycling, rowing and yachting to move to third on the medal table with 11, ahead of Germany on nine.

Cyclist Rebecca Romero became the first woman to win medals in two different sports when she won the women’s individual pursuit to go with the rowing silver medal she won in Athens. Finn class sailor Ben Ainslie became Britain’s most successful Olympic yachtsman by winning his third gold medal, while the British team beat their own pursuit world record in booking a place against Denmark in Monday’s final.

Tennis wrapped up with Spain’s Rafael Nadal thrashing Chilean Fernando Gonzalez to claim the mens’s singles title in straight sets. Elena Dementieva came from a set down to beat Dinara Safina in an all-Russian women’s final and the Williams sisters Serena and Venus won the women’s doubles to repeat their success in Sydney eight years ago.

In a so far largely scandal-free Games, hours before the start of the women’s 400m hurdles defending champion Fani Halkia from Greece was thrown out for failing a drugs test in Japan while preparing for Beijing.