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Medal projections by China Daily
With the 2012 Summer Olympics just around the corner, China Daily provides projection and analysis of the potential medalists for the upcoming London Games, highlighting the Chinese team's medal hopefuls.
The sport was invented by the British, but Asian nations have ruled the roost in recent decades as China, Indonesia and South Korea have won 23 out of 24 of the titles offered since badminton joined the Olympics in 1992.
Chinese women, led by world No 1 Wang Yihan, hold all of the top four singles rankings, while the men boast three of the top four. Men's No 1 Lin humiliated long-time rival Lee Chong Wei in the final at Beijing and may only have his Chinese teammates to worry about in London. Women's doubles champion Yu Yang is back, albeit with a different partner in Wang Xiaoli, while long-serving head coach Li Yongbo is still the team's hard-bitten conductor.
Much of this year's intrigue will revolve around which teams can deny China complete hegemony. Women's world No 5 Saina Nehwal appears as equipped as any, and has raised India's hopes of a first badminton medal after upsetting China's best at the Indonesian Open last month. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Since the sport joined the Olympic program in 1988, China has exerted an iron grip - taking 20 of the 24 available golds, including all four at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. There have been only four non-Chinese golds - three for South Korea and one for Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner, who won the men's singles in 1992 and remains the only non-Asian gold medalist. But in London, there will be at least two non-Chinese paddlers on the podium, after a new rule limited each country to just two singles entrants.
Underlining China's supremacy, as of June it boasted the world's top five men and top four women. Men's No 1 Zhang Jike enters the singles in London along with Wang Hao, while Ma Long will join for the men's team event. Three-time gold medalist Ma Lin, the reigning singles champion, missed out. Germany's Timo Boll, ranked sixth and part of the team that took silver in Beijing, is the only non-Asian in the men's or women's top 10s.
On the women's side, Chinese world champion Ding Ning topped the rankings in June. Li Xiaoxia will also play singles and Guo Yue is included for the women's team competition. Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan was the highest-ranked non-Chinese, at No 5, with the Singapore duo of Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei, part of the women's team that took silver behind China in Beijing, also in the top 10. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Russia has an impressive lineup in the game of power, agility and speed and should challenge the Chinese in the heavy divisions. China, which won one silver and eight gold medals in Beijing, still dominates the lower weight categories. Kazakhstan has a few gold medal contenders like Ilya Ilin, defending Olympic champion in the men's 94kg category, and double world champion Zulfiya Chinshanlo in the women's 53kg class. The quest for gold and the unofficial title of world's strongest woman likely will be a showdown between Zhou Lulu of China and Tatiana Kashirina of Russia.
As always, weightlifting is struggling to contain its dark side - doping. Some would-be medal candidates have been barred from competing in London after failing drug tests, including former Olympic, world and European champion Taylan Nurcan of Turkey, Ukrainian superheavyweight Olha Korobka and China's Olympic champion Liao Hui. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Roger Federer has set his sights on crowning his remarkable record at Wimbledon by winning Olympic gold on his favorite grass courts. For the second time, and first since 1908, Wimbledon will play host to an Olympic tennis tournament, comprising men's and women's singles, as well as doubles and mixed doubles. Federer isn't the only top star who can't wait for the Games, which start three weeks after Wimbledon concluded. World tops Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal also aim at a singles gold at the All- England Club this year.
In the women's event, French Open champion Maria Sharapova can't wait to represent Russia after missing the 2008 Olympics after shoulder surgery. Newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, world No 1 Victoria Azarenka and China's first Grand Slam winner Li Na are also in pursuit of an Olympic gold for their couintry. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
The US women won the world title in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and have produced four of the past six all-round champions, but they have won only one Olympic team title, way back in 1996. They have gone to the past two Olympics as the world champions, only to come up a step short on the podium. This year, the US looks stronger from top to bottom than rivals Russia, Romania and China, the defending Olympic champion.
On the men's side, the Chinese dynasty will face big challenges. China has been on top of men's gymnastics for much of this century, winning five straight world titles as well as the gold medals at the Sydney and Beijing Olympics. But China looked vulnerable in winning the world title last autumn. The Chinese finished qualifying behind Japan and the US, the first time since the Athens Olympics they had finished anywhere but first in any phase of a major competition. The reduction in team size, from six to five, will hurt China most, putting more of an emphasis on all-rounders, something the Chinese lack. The Japanese and the US will pose the biggest obstable. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
USA Basketball finalized its 12-man squad for the London Olympics on Saturday with a list of NBA stars including LeBron James, coming off his first NBA title with Miami, and Kobe Bryant who are joined by 2008 gold medal-winning teammates Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams on the squad again guided by Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski. NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook, who lost to Miami in the NBA Finals, are also joined by 2010 world championship teammates Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love, two vital big men for the Americans.
Beijing Olympics runner-up Spain, led by Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, the NBA's top shot blocker each of the past two seasons, and Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol will still pose tough threat to the defending champions. [Full analysis and Medal Projections for Men and Women]
The British sailing star Ben Ainslie will be the main attraction during the Olympic regatta off Weymouth and Portland, some three hours southwest of London. If he wins his fourth straight gold medal and fifth straight medal overall, Ainslie will become the most successful Olympic sailor ever. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Hosts Britain is the favorite to top the medals table out on the rippling waters as the event is the only sport in which Britain has won gold at every Games since 1984. Australia, New Zealand and Germany had strong showings in recent world championships and World Cup regattas. The United States and Canada could make the London podium, too. China is hopeful of winning medals in men's lightweight coxless fours, women single sculls and lightweight double sculls. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
European powers Slovakia, Germany and Hungary are big forces as traditional Olympic powers United States, China and Russia are not competitive in this eventh. Slovakia has ruled the whitewater waves since the turn of the century, making its paddlers the country's most successful sports stars. All seven of Slovakia's gold medals have come in canoe slalom. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
The archery competition once again will be dominated by South Korea, who has won 18 golds since archery returned to the Olympics in 1972 after a 52-year absence, double the tally of its closest challengers, the United States. China is believed to be one of South Korea's strongest rivals in the women's individual and team tournaments. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
China's foil world champions Lei Sheng and epee world champions Li Na will lead the Chinese fencing team to strive for golds and glory in individual and team events. But traditional dominant powers Italy, France and Hungary and rising force Japan and South Korea will pose stiff threat to the Chinese fencers. Hosts Great Britain is not expected to upset the balance of power. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Olympic triathlons are notoriously hard to predict, but two British brothers have become so dominant, the biggest argument is over which one will finish first in London. Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, who grew up fell-running and cycling in their hilly home county of Yorkshire, were first and second in last year's world championship. This year, they're at it again. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Russia takes wrestling as seriously as any nation and often dominates in the Olympics. Their main challenge will likely come from Iran, Azerbaijan and the US. The US has the most wrestlers in London. But Iran and Azerbaijan each has a few medal contenders including the reigning world champions. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
For the first time ever, women will punch each other at the Olympic Games.36 women boxers will compete in three classes for the historic medals. China expects to grab at least one gold with reigning flyweight (51kg) amateur world champion Ren Cancan as the favorite contender. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
The projected medals in cycling are dominated by hosts Britain and European powerhouse but China still has hope for medals. Female cyclists Guo Shuang and Huang Li are the team's main title contender and the Women's sprint team is also hopeful for a medal. [Full analysis; Medal Projections]
Former Olympic and world champion Tong Wen shoulders China's hopes for a gold medal in judo. China's Wu Shugen, Xu Lili and Yang Xiuli are also candidates vying for a medal. [Medal Projections]
China's Wu Jingyu and Hou Yuzhuo are hopeful medalists in the women's lightweight and Liu Xiaobo is China's only hope in the men's events.