Yearender: China, Japan to vie for 2nd at Tokyo 2020

By Zhang Rongfeng

BEIJING, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- China is ramping up its preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is set to compete with hosts Japan - who have set a target of 30 gold medals - for second place in the overall medal table.

The United States is widely believed to be on track to win over 40 golds in Tokyo, maintaining its position atop the medal tally, while Britain, who finished second at Rio 2016, may slip out of the top three as the momentum from hosting the 2012 Games fades away.

Looking at previous Olympics, China's best chances of winning gold will continue to come from the six events of diving, weightlifting, table tennis, gymnastics, shooting and badminton. Between them, these sports have accounted for three-quarters of China's total Olympic gold medal tally of 224 since the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

China is overwhelmingly dominant in diving and table tennis, collecting all four golds from table tennis and seven gold medals out of eight available from diving at Rio 2016, but such dominance also means that China cannot realistically expect more golds in Tokyo from those two sports, even with the addition of mixed doubles table tennis to the program.

China has to achieve better results from the remaining four sports to reach 30 golds - four more than the amount won in Rio. It is thought this number will be enough to see off Japan and take second place in the medal table.

China can count on its weightlifters to turn out more than the five golds won in Rio, as the country pocketed ten of the 13 available titles at the world championships in Pattaya, Thailand in September.

Despite a likely challenge from a resurgent India, China can rely on shooting to contribute more medals, as the country secured just one gold at Rio 2016. India recorded better results than China at the 2019 ISSF World Cup final in Putian in November, pocketing three golds as the hosts managed two golds, one silver and one bronze.

In badminton, China won its record 11th Sudirman Cup title in Nanjing in May, but it will be a daunting task to win more than two golds - the number won at Rio 2016 - in badminton next year. China won just the mixed doubles at the badminton world championships in Basel, Switzerland in August, failing to reach the finals in the other four disciplines.

Japan is poised to be China's major opponent in the sport, as the host nation appears capable of winning three gold medals. The outcome from the badminton competition would appear to go some way towards deciding which of the two nations will finish in second place.

Theoretically, China can expect an improvement on its no-gold result in gymnastics at Rio, but the country's lackluster performance at the world championships in October has cast doubt on those expectations. This was the first time in 26 years that China had not won any gold medals at the tournament.

In order to take second place in the medal table, China has to seek more golds than the combined three at Rio 2016 from athletics and swimming.

Chinese athletes bagged three golds, three silvers and three bronzes - the best total in 26 years - at the Athletics World Championships in October, while race walking and women's shot put are also regarded as China's best shots for titles in Tokyo's track and field events.

Three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang, waiting a decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and two-time world champion Xu Jiayu are China's medal hopefuls in the swimming pool next year, while Xin Xin sensationally won the women's 10km open water at the Swimming World Championships in July, giving China another gold medal hope at Tokyo 2020.

Liu Aijie, president of the Chinese Rowing Association, is ambitiously looking for three gold medals from rowing and canoeing next year, which would represent a best-ever result for China if achieved. China finished top in canoeing for the first time at the Linz world championships in September, pocketing three golds.

Best ever results for China at world championships in 2019 also came in taekwondo, with China obtaining two golds, two silvers and three bronzes in Manchester in May.

Other events in which China hopes to win gold include cycling, sailing, fencing, boxing and karate. China's women won the 3X3 Basketball World Cup in June, while the men's archery team surprisingly took top spot at the world championships.

As host nation, Japan's target of 30 gold medals represents a significant uptick from their previous best of 16. According to Tsuyoshi Fukui, secretary general of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), Japan has overwhelmingly improved its competitiveness at the Olympic Games.

Japan won three golds, six silvers and one bronze from the Olympics' five newly-added sports - skateboarding, surfing, sports climbing, baseball and softball, and karate - across major global competitions in 2018, a better total than even the United States' three golds, two silvers and one bronze.

It's estimated that Japan has the capability of winning seven to nine gold medals out of a total of 18 provided by the addition of new five sports, which will give a huge boost to the host's ambition to snare second place.

[ Editor: ZY ]