LONDON: China slipped to second place in the London Olympics medals count on Friday as wins in badminton and trampoline were outdone by an American gold rush in the pool.
The six-day leaders, who also ruled the roost at Beijing 2008, were just one gold behind the United States – 20 to 21 – but with athletics, a rich mine for American medals, only just under way.
World champions Japan humbled Brazil 2-0 to reach the women’s football semi-finals, easing the delegation’s disquiet at being knocked off top spot in the judo competition for the first time since Seoul 1988.
China will look to their divers, badminton players and table tennis stars to maintain their flow of medals.
On Friday, world champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, who are romantically involved, won the badminton mixed doubles 21-11, 21-17 against team-mates Xu Chen and Ma Jin.
It began what China hope will be a sweep of all five badminton titles – a bid which was rocked when top seeds Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli were among eight players kicked out of the women’s doubles for playing to lose.
Men’s champion Lin Dan set up a dream final with great rival Lee Chong Wei, who is recovering fast from a serious ankle injury, in what will help organisers move on from the ‘throwing’ scandal.
Malaysia’s Lee downed fourth seed Chen Long 21-13, 21-14, and Lin beat South Korea’s Lee Hyun-Il 21-12, 21-10 to set up a rematch of the 2008 final – and last year’s gripping world title match, won by Lin at Wembley Arena.
“I was not the favourite to win this match,” said top seed Lee, who has battled back to fitness with intense rehab and stem-cell treatment.
“This is not Lee Chong Wei at his best. But I was determined to prove a lot of people wrong.”
China stayed on course for the unprecedented feat of winning all eight diving titles when Wu Minxia, seeking a record-equalling sixth Olympic medal, led the preliminary round of the women’s 3m springboard.
Dong Dong won the men’s trampoline, usurping the title of Chinese team-mate Lu Chunlong, who is also world champion in the discipline and took bronze.
South Korea claimed the Olympic Games men’s team sabre fencing gold, beating Romania 45-26 in the final, while Oh Jin-Hyek extended their dominance in the archery events by winning the men’s individual competition.
South Korea, who set a modest target of 10 titles for the Games, already have nine which puts them third on the medals table, ahead of hosts Great Britain.
But Japan were left to contemplate a medal-less showing for their male judokas which means that, for the first time in 24 years, they cannot finish as the competition’s most successful nation.
Japan have just one judo gold so far, through women’s under-57kg world champion Kaori Matsumoto. Japan are currently 13th on the medals table, with North Korea eighth.
“It is my responsibility. Technically we were good but mentally and in terms of power we were weak,” said men’s coach Shinichi Shinohara.
“I don’t think the rest of the world has got better but mentally athletes from the other countries are stronger.”
On Saturday, the last evening of pool action, China can bet the house on a gold medal for world champion and world record-holder Sun Yang in the 1500m. Sun, with the 400m title in the bag, topped qualifying with 14 minutes 43.25 seconds.
It will help counter a flood of US titles in the pool including wins for Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and 15-year-old Katie Ledecky on Friday.
Channel News Asia