2016 Rio Olympics is going to end tonight. China is trailing the U.S. in the number of total medals while ranking the third in gold medals. This year's Olympics is different in a couple of ways for Chinese.
Gold Medal Fixation, No More?
China is getting fewer gold medals this time. In 2008 Beijing Olympics, China won 51. However, this time, they are going home with only 26 of them. Does it matter? Used to. But not as much.
China started to fix its "gold medal obsession" since early 2015, when the central government announced that it would stop rewarding local governments based on the number of gold medals the athletes from each province win from international competition. Under the incentive system, Chinese athletes are under tremendous pressure to win only gold, dismissing silver and bronze. The shift of the policy, hopefully, may encourage more young people to participate in the sports, first and foremost, to enjoy.
The interview of the 20-year-old Fu Yuanhui, who won 100m backstroke bronze medal, went viral in China. When she found out that she got a bronze medal she was thrilled and said, " I used my primordial force to win it. I am happy about the result." Her attitude is so different from that of the silver medal winner Wu Jingbiao at 2012 London Olympics, who broke down and cried in a national TV interview:
"I shamed my country, my team and all of those who cared for me," he said.
Traitor or Hero
The women volleyball gold medal at Rio Olympics means a lot to China. The Chinese team has been struggling in the past 12 years until Rio. It is because of the Iron Hammer Lang Ping.
The coach Lang Ping used to be the captain of China's women volleyball team. Together with her teammates, she won 3 champions in the 80s and early 90s. The gold medals she and her team brought home went beyond medals. Encouraged by their victory, the whole country was lifted up spiritually with a strive to make China stronger and better.
She left China in the late 90s, studying overseas and coaching Italian and U.S. teams. Until a couple of years ago she was summoned back to help turn around Chinese women volleyball team and prepare for the Olympics.
While she was coaching foreign teams, Chinese called her a "traitor", accusing her of helping foreigners to defeat her own people. After Rio, Chinese treats her as a hero.
However, Lang Ping, with her "Iron Hammer" becomes a challenge to the long-time centralized sports system in China. Lang Ping's contract with China will expire by this September. Where she will be next depends on what she chooses to do and to be. After 8 years studying and working overseas, to her, sports is not just a vehicle to serve one's country anymore. More important, she wants to live a life she desires, not letting other people decide for her.