Gymnastics is a growth area for Chinese sporting success, particularly in men’s events. China’s version of the ‘dream team’ is the Chinese men’s gymnastics squad that won the team gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, after taking silver in the two prior Summer Games. ‘We have fought for this for forty years,’ said the coach as the exuberant athletes raced around the stadium. Five members went on to take team gold at the next East Asian Games, and the Chinese men’s team also took gold in gymnastics at the world university games held in Beijing in 2001.
Two decades of individual prowess in the field started with Li Ning, whose six medals (including three gold) for men’s gymnastics were the most won by any athlete at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In Atlanta in 1996, Li Xiaoshuang became China’s first gymnastics all-around champion at the Olympic level. Chinese gymnasts earned both men’s and women’s all-round gold at the 2002 Asian Games. Although women’s gymnastics has less depth for the future, the men’s strength is expected to persist into the 2004 Olympics. Surveys show gymnastics is China’s third most popular sport, after football (soccer) and basketball. Chinese are thought to have good body types for gymnastics; promising youngsters are funnelled into a training system that, even as other sports become more commercialized, remains state-run and highly centralized.
China’s best-known female gymnast, sadly, is Sang Lan, left paralysed after breaking her neck at the 1998 Goodwill Games. Li Ning, meanwhile, has parlayed his happier celebrity into an entrepreneurial kingdom: his giant sports apparel company has been described as the Nike of China. And in anticipation of the 2008 Beijing Games, Li Xiaoshuang and his brother Li Dashuang have opened an agency called Omnipotent Stars to market Olympic athletes.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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