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Entries in Gold Medals (3)

Monday
Aug132012

London Olympics End with US Leading in All Medal Categories

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Day 16 of the London Summer Olympics proved to be a fitting conclusion to the Games for Team USA, which finished the way it started by winning a couple of medals.

The U.S. men’s basketball team defeated Spain, 107-100, for the gold, but the game was much closer than that, with the Americans only holding a one-point lead over their opponent at the end of the half and the conclusion of the third period.

The other medal Sunday for the U.S. was a gold for Jake Varner in the Wrestling Men’s Freestyle 96k.

So after 16 days of competition, Team USA topped all nations in total medals with 104, and its athletes are taking home 46 golds, 29 silvers and 29 bronzes, the most in each of those categories as well.

China was second in overall medals with 87 and second place in gold medals at 38.  Russia finished third with 82 total medals.

Commenting on the U.S. accomplishment, Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said, “We had very, very high expectations coming into the Games, and I think our expectations have been exceeded both on the field of play and off.”

The 104 total was the most the U.S. has won in an Olympics held on foreign soil.

U.S. swimmers dominated by winning 31 total medals, including 16 gold.  Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, won six overall and four gold to bring his record-breaking total to 22 medals.  Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and Allison Schmitt each won five medals.

Track and field was right behind with 29 medals, as Allyson Felix won three gold medals and Carmelita Jeter won gold, silver and bronze.  There were also 18 instances of national-best performances by individuals and relays.

Other highlights included the American men’s and women’s basketball teams winning their gold medal games, and U.S. women’s beach volleyball teams taking gold and silver.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

China Strives to Become the Superpower of Sport

Al Bello/Getty Images(LONDON) -- It's beginning to sound like a broken record at these Olympics. The Chinese anthem blasts out again and again and again as its athletes ascend the podium.

The biggest match of all at these Olympics isn't in the pool or on the parallel bars, it is on the podium where China and the U.S. are battling it out for top spot in the medal count.

The Cold War is long over, but anyone watching these games can see that the U.S. and China are in an Olympic gold war.

While the U.S. medal haul has been consistent in recent years, China has rocketed from nowhere to top of the heap. Just look at the numbers:

Gold Medals:

1988: U.S. -- 36; China -- 5
2000: U.S. -- 37; China -- 28
2008: U.S. -- 36; China -- 51

How do they do it? This week, ABC News correspondent Gloria Riviera in Beijing visited one of the thousands of sports schools where future Olympians are already being groomed. These kids are hand-picked from a population of more than a billion. They start at ages 5 and 6.

Headmaster Gao Jiamei told Riviera that the secret to China's success is young athletes who train hard and can endure hardship.

To China's many detractors these schools are called "Medal Factories." Children are subjected to a grueling regimen of practice that becomes the sole obsession of their lives. For many parents, the honor of having a potential Olympian is offset by the huge sacrifice. In reality, many have to give up their children for the good of the nation's pursuit of gold.

The father of weightlifting gold medalist Lin Qinfeng has said that he hasn't seen his son in six years and that he wouldn't have recognized him on TV this week if the commentator hadn't mentioned his name.

Synchronized-diving gold medalist Wu Minxia had no chance to savor her victory at these games. As soon she won the gold her family broke the news that her grandparents had died a year ago. She was kept in the dark so she'd stay focused on victory here in London.

But the secret to China's success isn't just early, relentless and sometimes heartless training. There's also a strategy.

They have taken a page from the old communists of East Germany who used to win buckets of medals.

"The East Germans understood Olympic math," said USA Today sports columnist and ABC News sports consultant Christine Brennan, "and the Chinese get that too. Which is simply to say, that you take the sports where the medals are most plentiful, and that's where you throw all your energy."

And so while the Chinese have done well in diving and gymnastics where their acrobatic tradition gives them a natural affinity, they have also done staggeringly well in sports that most countries overlook, the low-hanging fruit of the medal count.

So far China's won seven medals in shooting and seven in weightlifting. Seven of those 14 medals are gold.

It's all part of a very focused national obsession to show the world that China is the superpower of sport.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug022012

North Korea's Key to Olympic Medals: Prizes for Winners, Labor Camps for Losers

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/GettyImages(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea's Olympic athletes are thrilling their countrymen with surprising success in winning medals and they are attributing their success to their Dear Leader Kim Jong Un.

But others, including former North Korean athletes who have defected, suggest the success of the country's small contingent of athletes at the games may be the result of a policy of training them from a very young age at specialized schools, backed up by rewards like cars and refrigerators for winners and the threat of labor camps for losers.

North Korea ranks 14th in the overall medal count, but fifth in terms of the number of gold medals with four. The country won two golds in men's weightlifting, one in women's weightlifting and one in women's judo. It also captured a bronze medal in women's weightlifting.

The communist nation has 56 athletes competing in 11 sports. Its hopes for additional medals in boxing, wrestling, diving, table tennis, judo and archery. The best Olympic result in the past was four gold medals and five bronzes in Barcelona 1992.

Joyful residents in North Korea gather to watch the games on huge outdoor screens and public places with television connection.

"After witnessing the gold medal at the Olympics, my heart is unutterably happy and my pride (in our nation) is growing," an unidentified woman said on state television news.

That pride is exactly what the country's new 28 year-old leader Kim Jong Un is looking for. He has taken control of the impoverished nation of 25 million after his father Kim Jong Il passed away last December. Decades of famine have left many North Koreans bitter and analysts say this Olympic Games' fever is a perfect opportunity to generate loyalty and devotion among his subjects.

Gold medalist Kim Un-Guk, who set an Olympic record in 62-kilogram weightlifting, dutifully attributed his triumph to their leader Kim Jong Un.

"I won first place because the shining Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un gave me power and courage," he told reporters in London.

An Kum-Ae, who won her gold in the women's judo 52-kilogram division, said, "I cannot be any happier than right now for I can give my gold medal to our great leader, Kim Jong Un."

Woo-Young Lee, a professor at University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, says, "Athletes in North Korean society are revered as elites and they are managed, trained and supported on a national level."

Hand-picked by the Communist Party's Sports Committee, the athletes are trained at very young ages and registered at specialized schools which provide "daily meals and spending money at times," said Gu-Kyeong Bang, a defector living in South Korea.

Bang was a student athlete in Taekwondo in the North. Training involved four hours of "ideological education" per week aimed at cultivating loyalty to the leader.

"They play with a different mind set," said another North Korean defector to the South, Kim Yo-Han. "An absolute loyalty towards the country and the leader is the core foundation of the North Korean athletes' sportsmanship."

Kim's father was a soccer coach and mother was a rhythmic gymnastics coach in the North.

Upon returning home, gold medal athletes like Kim Un-Guk and An Gum-Ae would be rewarded with handsome prize money, an apartment, a car, and additional perks like refrigerators and television sets.

But most of all, they will be rewarded with a huge jump in social status with the title of "hero" or "people's athlete."

But poor performances, especially losing to their archenemy nations like the United States or South Korea, have consequences. Rumors of athletes being sent directly to labor camps upon arriving home are not confirmed, but it is a common procedure to open "review meetings" after the sports events in which participants "assess" their own and each other's games, said Kim Yo-Han.

If during that process the person is determined "disloyal" to their Dear Leader, the athlete is likely to be expelled from the sports organization and at times sent to labor camps.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio