China shores up medal advantage


China was pipped to gymnastics gold Friday but won titles in weightlifting, badminton and judo to shore up its advantage over the United States in the medal race. China sits on 26 gold medals, 12 ahead of the US who picked up three more in the pool and one in gymnastics.

But the hosts’ weak point has traditionally been track and field, which started Friday, giving the Americans a chance to claw themselves back into the running to be named the world’s top sporting nation.

China had success with lifter Cao Lei winning the women’s 75kg and Lu Yong claiming the men’s 85kg, giving the country their seventh and eighth weightlifting golds of the Games.

‘This medal is dedicated to my motherland and to the people, but also to my dear mother who passed away recently,’ Cao said, holding the medal before her as she broke down again at a news conference after the awarding ceremony. Heavyweight judoka Tong Wen clinched the women’s +78kg crown by scoring an ippon with just 16 seconds remaining to depose Japan’s Maki Tsukada, the gold medallist from Athens. China also struck gold when Du Jing and Yu Yang won the women’s badminton doubles title, defeating South Korea’s Lee Hyo-Jung and Lee Kyung-Won. They also guaranteed themselves gold and silver in the women’s singles after the last non-Chinese challenger, Indonesia’s Maria Kristin Yulianti, was eliminated. World number one Xie Xingfang will take on Olympic defending champion Zhang Ning in Saturday’s final as China keeps its campaign for a clean sweep of all badminton golds on track.

Zhang fought off Yulianti for a 21-15, 21-15 victory while Xie staged a gritty comeback against teammate Lu Lan to win 7-21, 21-10, 21-12. Zhang, 33, said she was exhausted.

‘I said after the previous matches that I had no problems with stamina. Actually I lied to myself so as not to lose confidence,’ said the veteran. ‘How could an athlete at my age be as energetic as those in their twenties?’

Meanwhile, China’s Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng downed South Korea’s Lee Jae-Jin and Hwang Ji-Man to reach the men’s badminton doubles final where they will meet Indonesia’s Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan. And world champion Lin Dan beat compatriot Chen Jun to book his place in the men’s singles final, where he will meet Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei.

China had won all three gymnastics golds before Friday but their stranglehold was broken by Nastia Liukin of the United States, who won the women’s individual all-around event. Liukin’s compatriot Shawn Johnson took silver, while the host nation’s Yang Yilan finished with bronze. ‘I have done my utmost,’ said Yang. ‘I just tried to do my best.’

It came as controversy continued to surround the age of China’s women’s gymnastics team. The hosts took the team gold medal on Wednesday after allegations they’d broken the rules by fielding three gymnasts who won’t turn 16 this year.

‘I have spoken to the medical officer of the International Gymnastics Federation, who is aware of the potential problem,’ said Arne Ljungqvist, head of the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission. ‘But I’m not saying there is a problem here and now. There is no reason to believe age has been manipulated.’

Diving queen Guo Jingjing, who is retiring after Beijing, began her campaign to claim her second gold of the Games in the 3m springboard by easily topping the preliminary qualifiers.

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