In March 1959, Rong Guotuan, a table-tennis player, won the first world title in the sports history of China at the 25th World Table Tennis Championships held in Germany. From then to the end of 2001, Chinese athletes have altogether won 1,498 world championships and broken 1,045 world records; among them, 1,468 world championships were won and 877 world records were broken by Chinese athletes during the period between 1978 and 2001.
Before the founding of the PRC in 1949, Chinese athletes had participated in the Olympic Games three times, but had failed to win any medals. However, after 1949, the Chinese government sent delegations to participate in five summer Olympics and six winter Olympics, winning a total of 52 gold medals. At the Los Angeles, Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games, China ranked No. 4 in the number of gold medals and reaped large numbers of other medals. China has also ranked No. 1 five times in a row in both the total number of gold medals and the total tally of medals from the 9th to the 13th Asian Games.
The year 2001 was a bumper harvest year for China in competitive sports. Table tennis and badminton remained China’s strongest sports events. The Chinese team bagged all the seven world titles in the World Table Tennis Championships. The Chinese badminton team won the Sudirman Cup once again. The performance of Chinese winter sports athletes proved once again that their past achievements were not transient. Chess player Zhu Chen became the second Chinese world champion after Xie Jun. In the Ninth National Games at the end of the year, 24 contestants broke seven world records 35 times, six contestants and one team chalked up six new Asian records seven times, 28 contestants broke nine Asian records 41 times, and 32 contestants and four teams chalked up 37 new national records 52 times.
These outstanding achievements are in no small measure due to China’s competitive sports training system, which has adopted international levels of management and is being improved day by day. This system integrates spare-time sports schools for youngsters and sports clubs at the grass roots level, with sports teams of the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities as the backbone and the national teams as the top level. There are about 20,000 top-notch athletes in full-time training for various sports at any one time. To date, all 68 sports events in China have their own associations.