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China tops the world but loses 'two most valuable' golds
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China tops the Olympic gold medal table for the first time but lost men's hurdles and women's volleyball, the two golds voted by Chinese netizens as "the most valuable" of the country's tally in Athens.

The Chinese athletes had such a runaway success at the two-week sports gala that International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge had to ask them to slow down a little bit.

"The Chinese delegation has achieved tremendous success. Mr. Liu Peng, please leave something for the other countries," Rogge joked with the Chinese sports head on Friday when speaking during an dinner offered by top Chinese officials.

With a collection of 51 golds, 21 silvers and 28 bronzes, China surpassed perennial sports powerhouse the United States for the first time in history.

Just like in the Athens Games in 2004, the five sports of weightlifting, shooting, diving, table tennis and badminton combined to contribute most golds for the Chinese sports delegation with Chinese strong men and women grabbing eight golds and Chinese "dream team" of diving sweeping seven titles out of eight.

"We are very happy to display our dominance in weightlifting," said Ma Wenguang, team leader of Chinese weightlifting.

At the same time, Chinese gymnasts rebounded from a disappointing one-gold performance in Athens to reap nine titles in Beijing.

"We never gave up despite the setbacks at the Athens Games," said Huang Yubin, head coach of the Chinese gymnastics team. "We worked really hard in the past four years and I am so happy that we were able to come back with more victories on home soil."

Moreover, Chinese athletes have tasted maiden golds in sailing, archery, trampoline and rowing, which helped realize their remarkable increase on gold tally.

"It's a dream come true, we have waited for this gold medal for so long," said Yin Jian, who was crowned in the women's sailing RS:X category.

However, China has also failed to win some of their most wanted victories.

Liu Xiang, the defending 110 meter hurdles champion and China's only title hope in track and field at the Beijing Games, dramatically pulled out from the qualifying heats with an Achilles heel injury, leaving millions of his admirers in disappointment.

"He wanted to run so much, he did not want to disappoint the fans who rushed to the Bird's Nest to watch him race. But he just could not hold on, it really hurts," said Liu Xiang's coach Sun Haiping, who broke into tears at the press conference following the star hurdler's surprising withdrawal.

Liu was not the only Chinese athlete overwhelmed by tremendous pressure and unexpected injury. The Chinese women's volleyball team, who took home the only gold of China in team sports from the Athens Games, also missed out on the opportunity to repeat the glory before settling for the bronze medal.

"We were really under pressure," said Chen Zhonghe, head coach of the Chinese women's volleyball team. "We were playing at home and the Chinese delegation has won so many golds this time. We knew that the delegation needed a gold in team sports desperately, but it's really difficult."

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2008)

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