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China equals its greatest gold haul ever

india Updated: Aug 17, 2008 21:47 IST
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China on Sunday equalled its greatest haul of Olympic gold medals when gymnast Xiao Qin won the host country its 32nd title at the Beijing Games, matching its tally from Athens four years ago.

China has progressively improved its medal standing over the past 20 years and is determined to beat the United States and end the Beijing showpiece as the world's dominant sporting nation.

Publicly, China's leadership have played down the country's sporting ambitions but in reality its athletes have been under extreme pressure to perform well.

In the drive to beat the previous mark and satisfy nationalist pride, they are fielding 639 competitors in Beijing -- up from the 407 sent to Greece.

The 32nd medal came when Xiao won the men's pommel horse.

They also have 13 silver and 12 bronze, to the United States' 19 gold, 20 silver and 24 bronze.

Earlier, gymnast Zou Kai won the men's floor exercise while world junior champion Wang Jiao took gold by beating two-time world senior champion Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria to win the women's freestyle wrestling 72kg event.

For the first time, the world's most populous nation won a rowing title when the quartet of Tang Bin, Jin Ziwei, Xi Aihua and Zhang Yangyang upset world champions Britain in the women's quadruple sculls.

Qiu Jian, meanwhile, was gifted the men's 50m Rifle 3 Positions when American Matthew Emmons cracked under pressure.

Emmons, who enjoyed a comfortable lead going into his last shot, managed only a miserable 4.4 to drop to fourth place to hand Qiu an unexpected triumph.

Zhou Chunxiu excelled when she came a credible third behind Romania's Constantina Tomescu in the women's marathon.

And China's women -- Zhou Jing, Sun Ye, Zhou Yafei, Pang Jiayin -- had a storming swim in the women's 4x100metres medley relay, taking bronze behind Australia and the United States in a race where the world record was shattered.

Sixteen of the gold have come in judo, shooting, and weightlifting, which has pleased Chinese officials.

"Most of the Chinese competitors fully displayed their abilities to realize the goal of achieving good results on home soil," said Cui Dalin, deputy chef de mission of the Chinese delegation.

"We are especially pleased by our athletes in judo, shooting and weightlifting. But every single medal is meaningful in its own way and won through painstaking efforts by our athletes."

Dive queen Guo Jingjing attempts to add to the haul while writing her name in the history books later Sunday, and star shuttler Lin Dan also has a crack at glory.

The photogenic Guo, whose high-profile reported relationships in recent years have made her prime gossip-column fodder, is out to become the most successful female diver ever when she gets her 3m springboard quest underway.

If she wins, she will break the record for the most Olympic medals held by the legendary Fu Minxia, who won five during her career.

Guo, who is retiring after the Beijing Games, will also make history by becoming the first diver to sweep both individual and synchro gold in two consecutive Olympic Games.

She already has the syncro title here after winning with partner Wu Minxia, who will challenge her off the boards on Sunday.

Lin has huge pressure on his shoulders from a public who expect him to deliver, and he has a more personal mission after seeing girlfriend Xie Xingfang lose to teammate Zhang Ning in the final Saturday.

The mercurial world number one, or Super Dan, takes on mild-mannered Malaysian Lee Chong Wei, the world number two.

Meanwhile, China's women table tennis players take on Singapore in the team final.