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China close to target of 20 gold medals

Paul Eckert in Athens | August 22, 2004 00:31 IST

China added three titles in table tennis, badminton and weightlifting to reach 18 Olympics gold medals and stay nearly abreast of the United States on Saturday.

Top seeds Chen Qi and partner Ma Lin beat Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching of Hong Kong 4-2 to take the men's doubles gold medal in table tennis and keep China on track for another Olympic title sweep in Athens.

Chen and Ma, with raucous support from a large Chinese crowd, overcame a mid-match comeback by the China-born third seeds to win 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5. Ko and Li's silver is Hong Kong's first medal at Athens.

"My feelings are not showing now, but I'll cry tears of joy when I get home," said Chen, who was emotionless on the podium.

In an all-Chinese women's doubles badminton final, top seeds Zhang Jiewen and Yang Wei beat compatriots Huang Sui and Gao Ling to claim China's third gold -- one less than they won in Sydney.

Super-heavyweight Tang Gonghong claimed China's third women's weightlifting gold with a world-record. Chinese women were just one silver off repeating their sweep of all the gold in Sydney.

China were second in the medals table, with 18 golds, 12 silvers and 10 bronze -- behind the U.S. leader by just two bronzes on Saturday night. China set a target of 20 golds for Athens -- a number that will give them exactly 100 golds since they joined Olympic competition in 1984.

Japan, having their best Games in three decades, was third with 12 golds, five silvers and four bronzes.

Indonesia got its first gold at Athens when Taufik Hidayat, a controversial figure whose temper has sometimes eclipsed his talent, crushed Shon Seung-mo of South Korea 15-8, 15-7 in the men's singles badminton final.

"It was a really big responsibility for me. All the Indonesian people expected to me to win a medal," who wears a diamond stud earring and has been compared to other volatile sporting talents such as George Best and John McEnroe.


North Korea will get their first shot at a gold medal in Athens on Sunday when unseeded Kim Hyang-mi meets China's Zhang Yining, the world number one, in women's singles table tennis.

"We know that she's very good, but in the final match of the Olympic Games anything can happen," said Kim's coach Ri Hyong-il.

Defending champions South Korea won the gold medal in the men's archery team competition, comfortably beating Taiwan in the final to give their country three of the four archery titles.

The record-breaking trio of South Koreans -- Park Kyung-mo, Im Dong-hyun, Jang Yong-ho -- failed to live up to their reputations in the individual competition and crashed out before the semi-finals, but they showed their class as a team.

South Korea, with no Olympic peer in archery, have won 14 golds since first competing at the Games in 1984.

The South Koreans, ninth in the medals table with five golds, 10 silvers and four bronzes, are off their target of 13 golds in Athens. But they expect to sweep all four taekwondo golds when the competition gets under way on August 26.

The gymnastics governing body ruled on Saturday that because of a scoring error, the men's all-round gymnastics title that went to American Paul Hamm should have gone to South Korean bronze medallist Yang Tae-young.

The FIG said its rules do not allow the medal distribution to be changed. But the South Koreans said they would take their case for Yang to be awarded the gold to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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