Chinese diver proposal

China winning gold in more ways than one

China Medal Count

15 gold, 13 silver, 17 bronze (3rd place overall)

Day 9: Medals

Gold: Shi Tingmao (women’s 3m springboard); Meng Suping (women’s weightlifting +75kg)

Silver: He Zi (women’s 3m springboard); Chen Peina (women’s windsurfing)

Day 10: Ones to Watch

No Chinese diver will go for medals on Day 10, but Cao Yuan and He Chao start in the preliminaries of the men’s 3m springboard ahead of the final on Day 11. China has yet to win a gold medal in gymnastics in Rio, but has chances on Day 10 as You Hao and Liu Yang (men’s rings) and Fan Yilin (women’s balance beam) compete in their respective finals. If the women’s hammer final goes to form, then China’s Wang Zheng and Zhang Wenxiu could be battling it out for a bronze medal, while Xue Changrui has an outside chance in the men’s pole vault and Xin Xin will brave the Brazilian waters in the 10km marathon swim.

Day 9: Review

The contrast between the old and the new couldn’t have been more pronounced.

A job well done
Meng Suping: A job well done

Speaking after she had won gold in the women’s +75kg weightlifting category on Day 9, China’s Meng Suping (right) announced that she had performed her duty for her country and for the Party. Once she had received this duty, she said, she pursued it.

She certainly completed her assigned task, but only the most conservative of hearts would have been touched by her comments.

Meanwhile, the moments following the women’s 3m springboard final in which China won gold and silver, were among the most emotionally charged seen so far in Rio.

Chinese diver He Zi
Tearful Chinese diver He Zi (right) shows off her ring to fellow competitors

Immediately following the medal ceremony, He Zi, who won silver, received a marriage proposal on the podium from boyfriend and fellow Chinese diver Qin Kai. Meanwhile, Shi Tingmao, who won gold, had known about the plan all along, and had a ringside seat to the moment alongside third-place finisher Italian Tania Cagnotto.

Even Cagnotto, who later announced her retirement, joined the love fest, saying that Shi and He were among her favorite divers in the world and that bronze for her felt like gold.

But, according to Shi, Qin summed it up perfectly when the Chinese diver told his girlfriend of six years, “This is the way it’s supposed to be”.

In other words, there are more important things than sport.

While true sporting performances – such as Wayde van Niekerk’s stunning 400m world record run or Usain Bolt’s third straight Olympic 100m title – will inspire the next generation of athletes, the Olympics are also supposed to be about the feel-good stories that transcend sport and capture the imagination of everyone, not just those in the sporting arena.

After the bitter feuds in the lead-up to these Games over the handling of Russia’s doping scandal, which then extended into the first week when Sun Yang, Mack Horton and other swimmers fired plenty of verbal shots at each other, it now feels that the Olympics are beginning to regain their mojo.

Rio medal standings at the end of Day 10
Rio medal standings at the end of Day 10

There has been much hand-wringing over the fact that China now sits not only behind the Americans in the medal table, but behind the Brits too.

TV presenters have been keen to point out that China still has plenty of solid golden hopes, with three more diving competitions, plenty of badminton matches and the table tennis team events sure to net China some serious hardware in the days to come.

But if the lasting memories of these Games for China are of exuberant swimmer Fu Yuanhui speaking her mind or of Chinese diver Qin Kai proposing to his girlfriend in the most public of ways – rather than the old-school military dedication which won Meng Suping her weightlifting gold – then surely the nation will be all the better for it.

Chen Peina actionElsewhere, windsurfer Chen Peina (right) won the final three races of the regular competition to haul herself back into contention, before a second place finish in the medal round gave her silver. But there was massive disappointment for high jumper Zhang Guowei who failed to clear 2.26m in qualifying (despite having a PB of 2.38m) and missed out on the final. Also in the Estadio Olimpico, sprinters Su Bingtian and Xie Zhenye were eliminated in the semi-finals of the men’s 100m, running 10.08 and 10.11 seconds, respectively.

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