China dominate Paralympics

2004-09-27 15:13
Athens - One could be forgiven for mistaking the Chinese national anthem for the theme song of the Athens Paralympics, so often has its melody wafted through the different venues of these Games.

China has reaped gold a total of 56 times since the Paralympics began, the same number of top finishes earned by second- and third-placed Britain and Canada combined.

"It is a surprise even for us," said Xu Jicheng, who heads up a team of 20 journalists and photographers from China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, and has covered four Olympics. "Nobody expected they could do so well."

The Games are not quite over, but with table tennis, swimming and athletics on the menu for the two remaining days, the gap between China and competitors struggling to keep up is only likely to widen.

China's achievement in Athens is all the more remarkable given their weak past performance, and the fact that Athens is the first Paralympic experience for 80% of their 200 athletes.

At the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992, Chinese athletes took home a modest 11 gold medals and 25 overall. Four years later in Atlanta improvement was incremental: 16 gold and 39 total.

They doubled their harvest in Sydney, but still only finished sixth in the rankings of gold medal and eighth in total medals, behind traditional powerhouses such as Britain, Canada and Australia.

But in Athens the tables have turned, and China is so far ahead that other nations are wondering how they will ever catch up.

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