China winning gold in more ways than one

2016-08-16 06:57:10 GMT2016-08-16 14:57:10(Beijing Time) Global Times

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

Speaking after she had won gold in the women's +75kg weightlifting category on Day 9, China's Meng Suping 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.

That pursuit was certainly effective, 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.

Immediately following the medal ceremony, He Zi, who won silver, had just received a marriage proposal on the podium from boyfriend and fellow 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 her own bronze felt like gold.

But Qin summed it up perfectly when he 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.

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 diver Qin Kai proposing to his girlfriend in the most public ways - rather than the old-school military dedication which won Meng her weightlifting gold - then surely the nation will be all the better for it.

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