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China gain 4 more golds, back to top spot
Updated: 2004-08-23 06:44

China won its 100th gold medal since joining the Olympics in Los Angeles 20 years ago, as it set itself for a record haul in Athens and even greater glory when it hosts the Games in 2008.

China's Zhang Yining (R) celebrates victory with her coach Li Sun at the women's singles finals match against North Korea's Kim Hyang-Mi at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, August 22, 2004. Zhang Yining won the match 11-8 11-7 11-2 11-2. [Reuters]

World number one Zhang Yining achieved the milestone with victory in the final of the women's singles table tennis tournament, giving her two golds for the Games following her doubles crown with Wang Nan on Friday.

Zhang's singles gold was the 20th of the Athens Olympics for China, adding to the 80 the Asian giant has won since 1984.

China began its Olympic career at the Los Angeles Games with 15 gold medals, and followed up in Seoul four years later with just five.

But by 1992, China won 16 medals in Barcelona, a feat repeated in Atlanta four years later.

Sydney saw China explode into the elite group of Olympic nations with 28 gold medals, placing it third on the gold and overall medal tally behind the United States and Russia.

China Olympic Committee officials had played down expectations for Athens, saying the nation's target was 20 gold medals as it fielded a young team to prepare them for a much bigger haul when Beijing hosts the next Games.

But with China already achieving its benchmark 20 golds on just the ninth full day of competition in Athens, China looks set to break its record haul.

Fittingly the landmark 100th medal came in the table tennis arena, where China has won 16 golds out of a possible 19 since the sport was introduced into the Olympics in 1988.

Zhang modestly played down the importance of the 100-gold milestone after her 11-8, 11-7, 11-2, 11-2 victory over unseeded DPR Korean Kim Hyang-Mi.

"I think this makes my gold medal more interesting but to me, whether it is the 100th or the first, a gold medal is a gold medal so they all have the same significance," she said.

Zhang's win also keeps China's hopes alive of achieving a clean sweep of all the men's and women's table tennis events for a third consecutive Olympics.

Aside from the two women's victories, top seeds Chen Qi and Ma Lin won the men's doubles on Saturday while world number four Wang Hao will compete in the men's singles final on Monday.

Less than an hour before Zhang's victory, Jia Zhanbo won China's 19th gold of this Olympics and 99th ever in the men's 50m rifle three positions shooting event.

Tennis Duo Makes History  

Li Ting and Sun Tian Tian also made a history Sunday after winning China's first Olympic medal in tennis, taking the women's doubles gold with a solid victory over Spain.

Li Ting and Sun Tiantian shows their gold medals after the medal ceremony for women's tennis doubles final at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, August 22, 2004. [Reuters]

The Chinese rolled over Conchita Martinez and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3 6-3 on centre court.

While for the Chinese, victory meant a first Olympic medal in the sport for their nation, defeat for Martinez left her still hankering for gold.

The former Wimbledon singles champion has a doubles silver medal from Barcelona in 1992 and a bronze from Atlanta in 1996 - both won with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

The Chinese pair had beaten Paola Suarez and Patricia Tarabini in the semi-finals. The Argentines went on to win bronze.

First Gymnastic Gold

Also on Sunday, Teng Haibi, the youngest in the star-studded Chinese men's gymnastics team, jumped out of his black week and clinched the first Olympic gold medal for his team on pommel horse in Athens.

China's Teng Haibin celebrates his gold medal in the pommel horse during the men's gymnastics individual apparatus finals at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2004. [AP Photo]

Teng's gold was so heavy as he had to beat not only the world-recognized pommel king, Marian Urzica from Romania, but also the great pressure exerted on him in the past week in Athens.

Teng, 19, the rising star in recent years who was expected to be the successor of the popular star Li Xiaopeng, suffered a string of heavy blows since the beginning of the Athens Olympic Games.

On August 14 in the qualification, Teng fell twice from the parallel bars, which is his strongest apparatus, getting the shameful score of only 6.775 points. The result not only deprived China of a gold-catching point on parallel bars, but also sent the Chinese men's team to the fourth place in the qualifiers of the final.

On August 16 in the team final, Teng sank into Waterloo as he tumbled on the floor, fell from the parallel bars and the high bar, scoring 8.662, 8.737 and 9.125 points respectively, which, to some extent, directly sent the Chinese team to the fifth place, the worst mark of the team in Olympics since 1984.

However, Teng made a brilliant return, telling the world that he still has power to go ahead.

In the pommel horse final, Urzica, the top favorite for the gold who finished first on the event at the 2000 and 2001 worlds, and at the 2000 and 2002 World Cup finals, performed before Teng and scored the then highest points of 9.825.

As all the spectators expected Urzica to defend his Olympic title, Teng, the last one to perform, featured a series of dazzling movements and his stuck landing won huge applause.

"9.837", Teng became the winner and the hero of the gold-thirsty Chinese gymnastics team.

Teng said after the competition that he did not feel that great for taking the gold.

"I made too many mistakes in the team final. I felt deeply regretted for that. And I think today's gold can not offset my errors at that night." Teng said.

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