Liu Shiwen of China holds her trophy after winning the women's singles title at the World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest, Hungary, April 27, 2019. (Photo: CGTN)
Liu Shiwen of China holds her trophy after winning the women's singles title at the World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest, Hungary, April 27, 2019.
The year 2019 is coming to a close, which means that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is about seven months away. Over the past year, Chinese athletes have attended various competitions to prepare for the Olympics. Some of them did better than expected and some failed to meet expectations.
The total number of gold medals won by Chinese athletes in major Olympic events in 2019 was 43.
Table tennis, diving, weightlifting, badminton, gymnastics and shooting sports have been China's forte in the Olympics. The performances by the country's athletes in world-class contests of the first three in 2019 have given China confidence for Tokyo.
Chinese players won five titles at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest, Hungary in April. Three of them were Olympic event golds, pocketed by Ma Long (men's singles), Liu Shiwen (women's singles) and Xu Xin/Liu Shiwen (mixed doubles. Seven months later at the ITTF Team World Cup in Tokyo, Japan, both men's and women's teams of China won the championships.
Chinese divers also did an impressive job. At the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in July, Team China won a total 12 diving golds, eight of which were in Olympic diving events: men's and women's 3-meter springboard, 10-meter platform, synchronized 3-meter springboard and synchronized 10-meter platform. Xie Siyi, Cao Yuan and Shi Tingmao won two golds each.
Chinese weightlifters also sparkled by winning a record 10 titles at Olympic events at the World Weightlifting Championships in Pattaya, Thailand in September. Five went to men – Li Fabin (61kg), Chen Lijun (67kg), Shi Zhiyong (73kg), Lyu Xiaojun (81kg), Tian Tao (96kg) – and the rest to women – Jiang Huihua (49kg), Liao Qiuyun (55kg), Deng Wei (64kg), Wang Zhouyu (87kg), Li Wenwen (+87kg).
Unfortunately, the IOC rules that each team can only attend at most four competitions at the Olympics in Tokyo, meaning that China will have to make a painful choice to decide which one its athletes won't compete in.
By contrast, China did not do so well in badminton, gymnastics and shooting sports. At the ISSF World Cup in the Chinese city of Putian in September, two veterans, Zhang Jingjing and Pang Wei, won golds in the women's 25-meter pistol event and men's 10-meter air pistol, respectively.
If what Chinese shooters achieved is barely satisfactory, the country's badminton and gymnastics teams hit historic lows with their performance in world-class competitions.
Team China won only one gold medal in mixed doubles at the BWF World Championships in Basel, Switzerland in August. What made things even worse was that Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong were the only Chinese pair to reach a final. The rise of Kento Momota has made Japan a big threat to China in badminton, not to mention that Indonesia is also a serious challenger. Chinese shuttlers are expected to encounter bitter battles in Tokyo.
China suffered similar embarrassment at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany in October. Instead of carrying on the winning trend from the previous two years, Chinese athletes won no titles this time.
Of course, 2019 has brought more success than failures. For example, China's women's national volleyball team won the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Cup in Japan in September with a perfect record. At the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Gong Lijiao, Liu Hong and Liang Rui claimed three golds, creating the best record by Chinese athletes in this event in 26 years. Moreover, Sun Yang and Xu Jiayu also brought home three swimming titles at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju.
There were other surprises coming from trampolining, taekwondo, windsurfing, open water swimming, archery, 3x3 basketball, canoeing and other events. For example, Chinese swimmer won the country's first open water gold medal in the women's 10-kilometer competition in Gwangju. Liu Hao/Wang Hao and Xu Shixiao/Sun Mengya won two Olympic event golds at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Szeged, Hungary in August. China's women's 3x3 basketball team even claimed their first World Cup championship at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in the Netherlands.