Is China Setting a New Gold Standard?

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By Thomas Boswell
Friday, August 15, 2008

BEIJING At the End of Yesterday's Competition, China Had 22 Gold Medals, Which Is 12 More Than The United States. And Apart From Swimming, American Athletes Have Had Trouble Finding Their Way to the Top of the Medal Stand.

Watch out. Here comes China. If the United States doesn't wake up, by Aug. 24 it may be saying, "There goes China."

After just six days of Olympic competition, the host country was on the verge of stunning the world. At the 2004 Games, China had 32 gold medals, four fewer than the U.S. team. In these Games, China already had 22 gold medals -- just one shy of the next three countries combined, the United States (10), Germany (7) and South Korea (6) -- through the end of competition Thursday.

To be sure, track and field, in which the United States always has been strong and China barely existent, has just begun, so the numbers surely will change.

But every day, China asserts itself in a different sport, winning gold medals in eight areas, while the United States has been all but inept at everything except swimming.

Without the five gold medals won by Michael Phelps individually or as part of a relay team entering Friday, China would lead the United States in gold medals, 22-5.

The Chinese have asserted their dominance in the glamour sport of gymnastics, winning both the men's and women's team competitions as well as the all-around men's individual title. With 11 more gold medals up for grabs in artistic gymnastics, their haul isn't close to finished.

Also, China is a traditional power in table tennis, badminton, diving and shooting, where 17 more gold medals are available. So far, with the exception of a couple of excited Chinese shooters who couldn't get their heart rates down and were dubbed chokers, home-field advantage has consistently helped the hosts.

Just as daunting, China's boasts about "Project 119" already are coming true. No, that's not the Chinese equivalent of Area 51 in Roswell, N.M., where alien wrestlers might be recruited. Rather, it's the number of gold medals available in five sports in which China always has been terrible, and in which they won only one medal of any kind in 2000 -- swimming, track and field, rowing, sailing and canoe/kayak.

So how's it going? China already has five medals in swimming alone. Four of the "119" sports haven't even kicked into high gear yet.

Nobody should throw in any towels yet. A fast start by China was expected. But not this fast. China's clear dominance is not yet a certainty, but we may only be a few days away from seeing it.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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