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China: What is going on?


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So China are sitting top of the medal table and over the last years they are winning more and more medals. So what is the story of their success do we think?

  1. Pure natural talent/hard work and dedication
  2. unlimited funding and finances from the government
  3. A state funding doping programme that is yet to be exposed/found
  4. Abuse/torture/punishment of their athletes into performing well similar to the Russians back in the communist days
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Huge talent pool to draw from, money and willingness to spend what it takes, focus on sports that award lots of medals (like diving), possibly/probably some doping (but easy to accuse while hard to prove and you gotta be totally sure your own house is clean before you point the finger too hard). I think we’d know if there was overt torture or punishment so I’d rule that out - not sure it would be an effective incentive anyway.

Edited by Sir Rols
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The thing is with doping. Yes, you’d be naive to think it isn’t happening. But you’d also be naive to think it’s confined to any particular country.

Also, doping is of most benefit to power and endurance sports, which China gets some medals at but is not particularly dominant. Not sure if doping is as much use in things like diving or gymnastics or table tennis. 

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The thing with china though is that it is still very secretive to know how far doping is within their sports programs. Russia was only exposed due to a whistleblower and could still be happening if it wasn't for this.

All countries have doping scandals, the USA included, but these have been exposed.

I do wonder though especially in gymnastics if there is sexual abuse going on with their athletes. This was happening with the soviet union gymnasts and they dominated for decades. it also happened with us gymnasts and ultimately they dominated more than they ever had whilst this abuse was going on. Now it seems to have stopped in Russia and USA, they are starting to decline in their dominance, yet china is getting better and better.

just a thought, ofcourse that is no way ok, but have to wonder.

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3 hours ago, Sir Rols said:

The thing is with doping. Yes, you’d be naive to think it isn’t happening. But you’d also be naive to think it’s confined to any particular country.

Also, doping is of most benefit to power and endurance sports, which China gets some medals at but is not particularly dominant. Not sure if doping is as much use in things like diving or gymnastics or table tennis. 

There are drugs for weight loss or psycho drugs that can enhance performance in sports like gymnastics or diving. Seeing that 14 year old diving winner girl, it felt like going back to the abusive days of the 70s and 80s where little girls not only in Eastern bloc countries were at least psychologically abused to reach the peak.

And to think a country that commits Human Rights atrocities left right and centre wouldn’t go as far as abusing their athletes to achieve glory would be naive anyway.

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Well, the much vaunted PRC Women's Indoor Volleyball team which won gold in Rio, just fell flat this year.  They were out by the end of prelims and didn't even get into the quarterfinals.  You just know they won't be welcomed into Xi's palace and will have no internet service for a year!!  :lol:

Back to topic: why are they so successful?  Simple, they have the pool for it, and in a country of 1.4 billion people, you have at excel at something - so it might as well be one of the myriad of Olympic sports.  Just wait until India decides they want to be an Olympic power as well!!  

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With that many people and a willingness to put whatever money into it you will get those results. They might be pushing, but with so many choices the individuals would do almost anything to be the best to bring comfort to ones family and circle. You don't have to use a stick when you have a good carrot. China can offer a very large carrot.

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I was tired and it was a bit late last night, but lets dive into it a bit more. Be warned - this is gonna be an long essay! I’ll put a TLDR at the bottom.

If you are a large country, with lots of funds and the will to do so, it’s not too hard to become an Olympic “superpower”.

On a basic level, you have a huge talent pool, a widespread talent spotting and recruiting system in place, and invest in the best facilities and training and coaches to make the most of that potential pool of athletes. Simple and fair.

Then you can employ a bit of strategy if you want to maximise those medals. 

First thing is focus on sports where they’re lots of medals on offer. It’s no coincidence that those athletes with records for most medals at a single games or over their careers tend to come from such sports as swimming, gymnastics and athletics - they give out medals like confetti. Take swimming - in just one stroke, freestyle, you have medals for 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, relays in 100m and 200m, for both men and women. Gymnastics you have individual all round and team and then for all the various apparatuses for both men and women. Athletics is jam-packed with various events men and women. Diving gives you springboard and platform, various heights, synchronised or individual, men and women. Why would you put all your focus on a single medal in, say, water polo, when you could get half a dozen medals for the same investment in swimming. It’s a no brainer if you want to put together a national strategy. I remember having arguments with a Chinese member here once who claimed that swimming was “unfair”, racist and biased because it skewed the medal count to western countries and why couldn’t table tennis have multiple events for left hand/right hand, or age, weight and height categories etc.

You can also look for sports niches you can easily fill from scratch. Now, Australia is not a country with any tradition in winter sports. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when there was money and government and public support to maximise our returns from Sydney 2000, we identified a niche in the winter games - freestyle aerials. It was fairly new to the games, not really dominated by any particular country, and used skills more akin to diving and gymnastics than any particular winter skills. So we invested heavily, recruited gymnasts and divers who wanted to taste the Olympics but were likely out of contention in their usual sports, got them to train on synthetic slope ramps over swimming pools and, bang! Instant winter golds for Australia! This worked well in giving us one or two golds consistently over a few winter Olympiads, and we were open, transparent and proud of our methods. Then the Chinese caught on and replicated that exact same strategy and suddenly, with their vast more resources behind them, they started to dominate that sport.

Now to move onto to more underhand or gaming the rules methods to dominate the table. 

In the amateur years of the Olympics, pre-1970s, the USA and Russia both had their own ways to get around rules that restricted the games to non-professionals. In the US, it was the college sports system - sign up your best athletic talents to sporting scholarships and they could train and compete to their heart’s content as ostensible students rather than pros. The college system is still a backbone in US sports culture, but it doesn’t need to disguise anything any more. In the age of professional Olympics, it is what it is - a highly effective sports talent spotting and nurturing system. In Russia, on the other hand, you joined the military, but while your comrade soldiers were off manning the 1st Minsk mobile missile battery, you were doing your drills in the training gym back in Moscow. I’m a soldier for Mother Russia, not a pro sportsman! 

When the Olympics opened the floodgates to professionalism in the 1970s, such quasi-legal methods of stealing an advantage were no longer as effective in heading off the competition. Now, yes, there was doping in the games long before then, but it’s no coincidence that it’s from the 1970s that it erupted big time. East Germany was the exemplar. It really wasn’t particularly subtle and here the backlash came. The general public might have been willing to turn a blind eye to full time “amateurs”, but still draws the line at chemically-enhanced cheaters (though still being comfortable with technological advances in things like shoe spikes or bicycle design). And so the fightback began. We all know that doping is a tough one to police and requires stringent on-going vigilance. No sooner is one test for a particular chemical or hormone developed when chemists can come up with a new formula that’s not yet detectable or a masking agent that’s harder to identify. Most of us strongly suspect that of course there are medallists in these or any games who can thank their team doctor for their success. Most of us at heart probably also fervently hope that of course it can’t be our own clean, pure, fresh-faced countrymen who are doing it - it’s only those cheating foreigners.

When China (as in the PRC) first entered the Olympic arena from the 1980s, it didn’t take long for them to look for a chemical leg-up. But they were still pretty crude about it. In the mid-1990s they suddenly conjured out of nowhere a bunch of record breaking female swimmers and middle distance runners, who supposedly were fuelled by their coaches’ amazing Turtle Soup. It was all too obvious and very quickly unmasked and the Chinese retreated. Now, I’m not saying the Chinese don’t now dope - you only have to look at how the swimmer Sun Yang got his comeuppance to see that - but by and large I still maintain that doping is most effective for power and endurance events, and we’re not seeing China building dominance or suspicious success in things like swimming or road cycling or challenging the Jamaicans in sprinting or East Africans in distance running. That’s no reason not to be vigilant and suspicious, though. It’s not hard to imagine a totalitarian regime is always mightily tempted and well-placed to test the boundaries and hide their evidence. And the Chinese have the money and scientific know-how to be much, much better at it now. But I’m not seeing them getting any overt returns yet.

And so, on to training and possible abuse/coercion. Here’s where I agree it may get a bit murky. I still discount sexual abuse or overt torture as effective or likely motivators or performance enhancers (not too say it might not be happening though, all over the world). But, yes, China does have great strengths in the technique events - like diving and gymnastics -  and these are the ones that benefit most from strict and strenuous training and repetition and then even more training and repetition. I strongly suspect their training regimes are far more gruelling than what we practice in the west. We tend to favour a more holistic training, cross training and lifestyle balance, while we have heard reports and hints they will put their athletes through intense, up to 18-hours-a-day gruelling training regimes and proscribed diets etc. How much of that is true or exaggerated is up for debate, but I think it sounds plausible their young gymnasts and divers face more intense pressure and workload than our youngsters do. BUT… then again, it may also be a bit disingenuous to look at a 13-year-old Chinese gymnast and tut-tut that she’s being exploited, but then go on to look at 12-year-old British, Japanese and Brazilian skateboarders, or 15-year-old Ukrainian or Malaysian divers, and say they look cute, sweet and wholesome.

And that is Sir Rols’ guide to how to become an Olympic medal table superpower. Thank you Mr Modi, that’ll be 10 million Rupees please!

Sorry for the essay.

TLDR: China has been able to leverage lots of natural advantages to get lots of Olympic medals. It may likely also use some less innocent methods to maximise those medals. But it would be foolhardy to point the finger too much and colour any accusations through political and national biases.

 

 

 

Edited by Sir Rols
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4 hours ago, Sir Rols said:

 

I was tired and it was a bit late last night, but lets dive into it a bit more. Be warned - this is gonna be an long essay! I’ll put a TLDR at the bottom.

If you are a large country, with lots of funds and the will to do so, it’s not too hard to become an Olympic “superpower”.

On a basic level, you have a huge talent pool, a widespread talent spotting and recruiting system in place, and invest in the best facilities and training and coaches to make the most of that potential pool of athletes. Simple and fair.

Then you can employ a bit of strategy if you want to maximise those medals. 

First thing is focus on sports where they’re lots of medals on offer. It’s no coincidence that those athletes with records for most medals at a single games or over their careers tend to come from such sports as swimming, gymnastics and athletics - they give out medals like confetti. Take swimming - in just one stroke, freestyle, you have medals for 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, relays in 100m and 200m, for both men and women. Gymnastics you have individual all round and team and then for all the various apparatuses for both men and women. Athletics is jam-packed with various events men and women. Diving gives you springboard and platform, various heights, synchronised or individual, men and women. Why would you put all your focus on a single medal in, say, water polo, when you could get half a dozen medals for the same investment in swimming. It’s a no brainer if you want to put together a national strategy. I remember having arguments with a Chinese member here once who claimed that swimming was “unfair”, racist and biased because it skewed the medal count to western countries and why couldn’t table tennis have multiple events for left hand/right hand, or age, weight and height categories etc.

You can also look for sports niches you can easily fill from scratch. Now, Australia is not a country with any tradition in winter sports. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when there was money and government and public support to maximise our returns from Sydney 2000, we identified a niche in the winter games - freestyle aerials. It was fairly new to the games, not really dominated by any particular country, and used skills more akin to diving and gymnastics than any particular winter skills. So we invested heavily, recruited gymnasts and divers who wanted to taste the Olympics but were likely out of contention in their usual sports, got them to train on synthetic slope ramps over swimming pools and, bang! Instant winter golds for Australia! This worked well in giving us one or two golds consistently over a few winter Olympiads, and we were open, transparent and proud of our methods. Then the Chinese caught on and replicated that exact same strategy and suddenly, with their vast more resources behind them, they started to dominate that sport.

Now to move onto to more underhand or gaming the rules methods to dominate the table. 

In the amateur years of the Olympics, pre-1970s, the USA and Russia both had their own ways to get around rules that restricted the games to non-professionals. In the US, it was the college sports system - sign up your best athletic talents to sporting scholarships and they could train and compete to their heart’s content as ostensible students rather than pros. The college system is still a backbone in US sports culture, but it doesn’t need to disguise anything any more. In the age of professional Olympics, it is what it is - a highly effective sports talent spotting and nurturing system. In Russia, on the other hand, you joined the military, but while your comrade soldiers were off manning the 1st Minsk mobile missile battery, you were doing your drills in the training gym back in Moscow. I’m a soldier for Mother Russia, not a pro sportsman! 

When the Olympics opened the floodgates to professionalism in the 1970s, such quasi-legal methods of stealing an advantage were no longer as effective in heading off the competition. Now, yes, there was doping in the games long before then, but it’s no coincidence that it’s from the 1970s that it erupted big time. East Germany was the exemplar. It really wasn’t particularly subtle and here the backlash came. The general public might have been willing to turn a blind eye to full time “amateurs”, but still draws the line at chemically-enhanced cheaters (though still being comfortable with technological advances in things like shoe spikes or bicycle design). And so the fightback began. We all know that doping is a tough one to police and requires stringent on-going vigilance. No sooner is one test for a particular chemical or hormone developed when chemists can come up with a new formula that’s not yet detectable or a masking agent that’s harder to identify. Most of us strongly suspect that of course there are medallists in these or any games who can thank their team doctor for their success. Most of us at heart probably also fervently hope that of course it can’t be our own clean, pure, fresh-faced countrymen who are doing it - it’s only those cheating foreigners.

When China (as in the PRC) first entered the Olympic arena from the 1980s, it didn’t take long for them to look for a chemical leg-up. But they were still pretty crude about it. In the mid-1990s they suddenly conjured out of nowhere a bunch of record breaking female swimmers and middle distance runners, who supposedly were fuelled by their coaches’ amazing Turtle Soup. It was all too obvious and very quickly unmasked and the Chinese retreated. Now, I’m not saying the Chinese don’t now dope - you only have to look at how the swimmer Sun Yang got his comeuppance to see that - but by and large I still maintain that doping is most effective for power and endurance events, and we’re not seeing China building dominance or suspicious success in things like swimming or road cycling or challenging the Jamaicans in sprinting or East Africans in distance running. That’s no reason not to be vigilant and suspicious, though. It’s not hard to imagine a totalitarian regime is always mightily tempted and well-placed to test the boundaries and hide their evidence. And the Chinese have the money and scientific know-how to be much, much better at it now. But I’m not seeing them getting any overt returns yet.

And so, on to training and possible abuse/coercion. Here’s where I agree it may get a bit murky. I still discount sexual abuse or overt torture as effective or likely motivators or performance enhancers (not too say it might not be happening though, all over the world). But, yes, China does have great strengths in the technique events - like diving and gymnastics -  and these are the ones that benefit most from strict and strenuous training and repetition and then even more training and repetition. I strongly suspect their training regimes are far more gruelling than what we practice in the west. We tend to favour a more holistic training, cross training and lifestyle balance, while we have heard reports and hints they will put their athletes through intense, up to 18-hours-a-day gruelling training regimes and proscribed diets etc. How much of that is true or exaggerated is up for debate, but I think it sounds plausible their young gymnasts and divers face more intense pressure and workload than our youngsters do. BUT… then again, it may also be a bit disingenuous to look at a 13-year-old Chinese gymnast and tut-tut that she’s being exploited, but then go on to look at 12-year-old British, Japanese and Brazilian skateboarders, or 15-year-old Ukrainian or Malaysian divers, and say they look cute, sweet and wholesome.

And that is Sir Rols’ guide to how to become an Olympic medal table superpower. Thank you Mr Modi, that’ll be 10 million Rupees please!

Sorry for the essay.

TLDR: China has been able to leverage lots of natural advantages to get lots of Olympic medals. It may likely also use some less innocent methods to maximise those medals. But it would be foolhardy to point the finger too much and colour any accusations through political and national biases.

 

 

 

Agree about these (pre-) teen skateboarders, there really needs to be a limit.

Still, the question of this thread is why China is doing so well, and you gave a great explanation.
 

Of course the natural talent pool and smart focusing are clear advantages. But I remember the platform diving again (both M/F with 14 yo Chinese medalists): a German coach was asked when here the divers start to go to the 10m platform in training and she mentioned that they only are allowed at about 14 or so for health reasons.

An unscrupulous, totalitarian regime will always use sports to show itself in a golden light. GDR did it, the Belarus drama this year shows the dark side, others do it to (“we will ROC you”), and the IOC doesn’t even blink.

At least some athletes are now more outspoken about manipulating competitors.

As for India: their surprise javelin winner last night has a former GDR coach. Just saying…

Modi clearly has his eyes on sports too, watch out for more to come. And it won’t just be the vast talent pool there either.

 

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With the amount of people to choose from and the money they are willing to put into it, I would expect their number of medals to rise in the future.  The only physical problems they have is height and that will start shrinking soon.

I think the question what will smaller countries do to keep their medal count in the up coming years? And will the dominance of China turn spectators off from the Olympics? 

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A communist regime using sports as propaganda tool to promote their system and drive people to their side in order to demoralize the west. Typical script from communist nations during the Cold War. I don't know why some are surprised about it.

And despite all of that, still lost to America. :rolleyes:

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5 hours ago, AmaniS said:

 

I think the question what will smaller countries do to keep their medal count in the up coming years? And will the dominance of China turn spectators off from the Olympics? 

There‘s a reason why in Badminton and Table Tennis only two per country are allowed: at least one medal goes elsewhere (though this time badminton was quite spread).

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