Rio 2016: From table tennis to diving, China aims for supremacy in six disciplines

Beijing: China is famous for its five-year plans, which are used to mastermind not only political and economic goals but also sports-related objectives.

The Chinese team has long had a very clear idea of how the Rio de Janeiro Olympics should work out for them.

They set the bar highest in Beijing 2008, and their performance there will be hard to beat. In the first Games ever held in their own country, Chinese sportspeople not only topped the medals table, but they also won a record 51 gold medals. Four years later, in London, they came second, on 38 gold medals.

 Rio 2016: From table tennis to diving, China aims for supremacy in six disciplines

China's athletes for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Reuters

"Being below second place would be a disappointment," Chinese sports commentator Yan Qiang said of Rio 2016.

Chinese medal hopes rest above all in the "six gold mines" with which the Asian giant always achieves excellent results.

Eight years ago, they got 38 of their 51 gold medals in table tennis, badminton, diving, shooting, gymnastics and weightlifting. In 2012, 26 of their 38 golds again came from those six disciplines.

"That pattern will persist in Rio," Yan Qiang said.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua made it clear that anything beyond absolute supremacy in every table tennis event will be regarded as "a failure."

Chinese dominance in badminton is less clear. In London, China won every category in that sport, but this year there will be new rules: every country will only be allowed to register two participants, instead of three.

For China, which has a huge number of top badminton players, that reduces the chances of getting a medal. Still, Lin Dan, who many regard as the best badminton player in history, hopes to win his third gold medal.

"Super Dan," as he is known at home, will need to beat his greatest rival, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, who currently leads the world rankings.

Diving is one of the sports where Chinese participants are the clearest favourites. At the Swimming World Championships held in Kazan in 2015, Chinese divers won 10 of the 13 gold medals at stake. However, team boss Zhou Jihong was cautious ahead of the Olympics.

"Other teams have made very fast progress in recent years," he said.

Chinese hopes are also pinned on swimmer Sun Yang. Sun won two gold medals in London 2012, in the 400 m freestyle and the 1,500 m freestyle. In May 2014, he tested positive for the stimulant Trimetazidine, but he was only suspended for three months instead of the usual two years.

In January, Sun broke his foot and needed to stop training for a further three months. However, he currently looks fit.

"My goal is to defend my gold medals," he said.

Athletics prompts fewer hopes than other sports for China. After Athens 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang said he was would not be at the Games, all eyes are on triple jump world champion Dong Bin and high jumper Zhang Guowei.

Commentator Yan Qiang thinks the United States will increase their lead at the top of the medals table in Rio, because of the situation in athletics.

"Since Russian athletes have been disqualified, US athletes will be able to win many medals in those disciplines. China, on the other hand, will win very few," he explained.

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2016 17:46:51 IST