China, US to battle it out for top position in London
Updated: 2012-07-22 19:53:26
LONDON - China beat long-time Olympic powerhouse United States in the number of gold medals at Beijing 2008 but in London it might be a different story.
China captured 51 golds, 21 silvers and 28 bronzes in Beijing, relegating the United States to second place with a 36-38-36 record.
Russia were third on 23-21-28 and Britain followed with 19-13-15. Germany, Australia and South Korea occupied the following three positions. Japan were eighth and Italy finished ninth ahead of France.
After the Beijing Games, Chinese sports authorities have kept playing down domestic expectations on repeating the feat in London.
"As far as the pattern of recent Olympics is concerned, Chinese athletes will inevitably win less medals in London but the Chinese delegation will try hard to stay in the leading group," said deputy chef de mission Cai Zhenhua.
China fielded a 396-strong delegation featuring 33 Olympic champions to the July 27-August 12 Games.
According to statistics from the past five Olympics, Olympic hosts tend to have a 32.8 percent drop in gold medals and a 25.9 percent reduction in total medals at the next Games and the pattern is likely to repeat on China.
As shooting, judo, wrestling and boxing achieved best ever results in Beijing, it will be extremely hard for Chinese athletes to do even better when the competitions moved thousands of miles away from home.
When China showed no ambition to scale the height of Beijing, the United States may look to recover their hold on the No 1 spot.
The United States will send 530 athletes, including 124 Olympic medalists, to compete in 215 sports.
For the Americans, the places to dominate are the swimming pool that will produce 34 gold medals and the track and field where 47 titles are on offer.
Beijing Olympic eight-time winner Michael Phelps is surely the one to watch in a star-studded US swimming squad that clinched 16 gold medals, six silvers and nine bronzes in the Shanghai swimming world championships last year when host China finished second on 15-13-8, including 10 diving golds in as many events.
On the basketball court, NBA star Kobe Bryant will lead the Dream Team's charge for a defence of the crown. The United States proudly sent their Dream Team, probably for the last time, for an Olympics as NBA commissioner David Stern is looking to enter future Olympics with an under-23 team. Gold medal will be the Dream Team's expectation. So will be their women's counterparts.
The competition for a spot behind the two sports giants will also be fierce as Russia and host Britain both riveted their eyes on it.
Russia has set a minimum target of 25 gold medals from their 436 athletes, slightly fewer than 468 in Beijing Olympics.
"We will struggle for the place in the top three, but we could not catch on with the United States and China. Our principal competitor for the third place will be Britain," Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said.
And the Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov told the media that the team had "totally prepared".
Even more prepared should be host Britain which set a minimum target of 48 medals after a record-breaking performance of 47 medals in Beijing.
UK Sport Chief executive Liz Nicholl admitted that they set a relatively low target figure, and it was "comfortably" within the team's range, and failure to make it would be a "major disappointment", according to The Telegraph.
"We aspire for them to be more than 48," Nicholl was quoted as saying.
Down the leaders' list, Japan intends to challenge Australia for a fifth-place finish. Germany, France and Italy are also competitive for the position.
The Japanese Olympic Committee announced their goals of 15-18 gold medals to reach the fifth place while the country is working hard to bid for the 2020 Olympics.
"As we look toward to the 2020 Olympics, we want to show the world a Japan that is more energetic than before," Yukifumi Murakami said at the inauguration ceremony of the delegation, consisting of 518 athletes.
For Australia which sent their smallest team to a summer Olympics since the 1992 Games, with 410 athletes set to compete in London, attaining the fifth position will be a tough job but the Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates was given some confidence for their athletes' better performance this year. Besides their signature event of swimming, Australia got better results in a number of sports such as sailing, cycling, rowing, equestrian and shooting.