Tokyo — Hou Zhihui, who is only a few days away each year, six days a week since he was 12 years old, has been driven by one mission to lift more than twice his weight into the air.
At the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, Hou’s dedication was rewarded after being isolated from his family, deprived of his normal childhood, and suffering from almost constant pain. She won a gold medal in the 49-kilogram category and broke three Olympic records. This is part of a terrifying Chinese women weightlifting team that aims to wipe out all the weight classes in conflict.
“China’s weightlifting team is very cohesive and the support from the whole team is very good,” said 24-year-old Hou after winning the gold medal. “The only thing we athletes think of is to focus on training.”
China’s sports assembly line is designed for one purpose, to win a gold medal for the glory of the country. Silver and bronze are rarely counted. By defending 413 athletes in Tokyo, the largest delegation in history, China aims to land at the top of the gold medal count, even as the Chinese people are increasingly wary of the casualties of individual athletes. increase.
“We must firmly guarantee that we will win the gold medal first,” said Gou Zhongwen, chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee, on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics.
The Most Golds, at Any Cost
The Chinese system, rooted in the Soviet model, relies on the state to scout tens of thousands of children for full-time training in more than 2,000 government-run sports schools. To maximize the golden harvest, Beijing has focused on less prominent sports that are underfunded in the west and sports that offer multiple Olympic gold medals.
It’s no coincidence that nearly 75% of the Olympic gold won by China since 1984 is six sports: table tennis, shooting, diving, badminton, gymnastics and weightlifting. More than two-thirds of China’s gold is donated in favor of female champions, with nearly 70% of Tokyo’s delegations being women.
Women’s weightlifting, which became a medal sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was an ideal target for Beijing’s gold medal strategy. This sport is a niche pursuit for most athletic powers. That is, female lifters in the west must scramble to raise money. And in multiple weight classes, weightlifting offers four potential gold.
For Beijing sports professionals, it wasn’t a problem that weightlifting didn’t appeal to the masses in China, and that the preteen girls poured into the system didn’t even know that such a sport existed. At the weightlifting national team training center in Beijing, a giant Chinese flag covers the entire wall, reminding lifters that their duty lies with the country, not themselves.
“This system is very efficient,” said China Sports, head of the weightlifting team for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. “That’s probably why our weightlifting is more advanced than in other countries and regions.”
Most countries are eager for the glory of the Olympics. The United States and the Soviet Union used the game as a surrogate battlefield for the Cold War. However, Beijing’s obsession with gold has led to the very establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The People’s Republic of China was seen as a revolutionary force that reversed centuries of decline and defeat by foreign powers.
The first essay written by Chairman Mao Zedong, the leader of the communist revolution, was about the need for a country dismissed as an “Asian sick” to develop its muscles.
But for decades, politics has hampered the achievement of the Olympics. As rival Taiwan entered the Games as the Republic of China, Beijing boycotted the Summer Olympic Games until 1984, and Taiwan was renamed Chinese Taipei at the Olympic Games.
In 1988, China won five Olympic gold medals. Twenty years later, when Beijing hosted the tournament, it surpassed the United States and surpassed the number of gold.
But London 2012 was disappointing and Rio 2016 was a big disappointment. China was third only to the United States and the United Kingdom.
Upon returning home, sports officials doubled their efforts, even if more middle-class parents did not want to hand over their children to the state to groom themselves as athletes. China was no longer a desperately poor country whose promise to fill its bowls fascinated government sports schools. Beijing acknowledged that sports should not be reserved for elite athletes and that all children deserve to run, play and kick the ball. Has been updated
July 29, 2021, 1:39 AM Eastern Standard Time
And there was growing awareness for all Olympic champions that tens of thousands of other children would not achieve it. Life is often difficult for these cast-off athletes: little education, physical injury, and little prospect of a career outside the sports system.
Nevertheless, Beijing continued its plans, manufacturing programs in Taekwondo, canoeing, sailing and more. Children who can load bullets in the palm of their hands have been dispatched to archery. A country girl with an impressive wingspan was turned to weightlifting.
“Children in rural areas and poorly economical families are well adapted to difficulties,” said Lee, a Beijing sports official, about the ideal candidate for weightlifting.
Beijing’s focus was not on sports with unpredictable interactions of multiple athletes, but on sports that could be completed in a Rohto routine. With the exception of women’s volleyball, China has never won an Olympic gold medal in a large team sport.
In Tokyo, Beijing’s strategy led the United States and Japan to award 14 gold medals by noon Thursday. China won the tournament’s first gold medal with a women’s 10-meter air rifle and won the first fencing. (China-dominated sports will focus on the first week of the tournament, but the strengths of the United States will expand.)
However, some of China’s traditional bases, such as table tennis, diving and weightlifting, did not realize the hope of a golden sweep. There was another disappointment before the tournament began. Top swimmers have been banned due to doping. Men’s soccer, volleyball and basketball teams failed to qualify.
The sacrifices of Chinese Olympic athletes are enormous. Academic guidance at sports schools remains inadequate, with some world champions sharing dorm rooms with others. They are fortunate to be able to meet their families several times a year.
It was her hometown journalist who gave her a message from her parents after Chinese lifter Liao Qiuyun entered the 55-kilogram weight class on Monday.
For female weight lifters, the cost of China’s sports system is much higher. Divers and gymnasts need to share revenue from approved transactions with the state, but at least they can take advantage of their post-retirement success. However, advertisers are not attracted to female weight lifters.
In one case, the former national champion became very poor after his retirement and eventually struggled with a public bath. She had a beard, which she said was the result of doping therapy forced on her as a young athlete.
In 2017, after an old sample was re-examined, three of China’s four women’s weightlifting gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were revoked due to tests finding banned substances.
Doping is rampant in weightlifting, and China is not the only country captured. However, the individual who decides to take the drug is not the same as the child instructed by the state to do so.
For Chinese sports machines, all of these tough years of effort can still fail in the heat of the Olympic Games. Liao, a 55-kilogram lifter, started the event as a world champion in Tokyo on Monday. Two days ago, in a lightweight class, Hou took the money.
Liao marched on the stage on Monday with a look floating between his determination and his resignation. At the last moment of …