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China Lets Its Medals Do the Talking

The Chinese have spent the past month playing down expectations for a repeat of the Beijing Games, where they won the gold-medal count. But so far in London, their athletes are winning events with a quiet efficiency that's starting to frighten the competition.

China's athletes don't talk about trying to enjoy the experience of the games (see: Phelps, Michael) and then miss out on a podium spot. They just win.

Synchronized divers: gold. Champion distance swimmer Sun Yang: Gold. Shooting: two golds, a bronze and a silver. Weightlifting? Gold and silver. Again and again, China's Olympians do what they're supposed to do.

The same can't be said for the hometown Brits, who've badly missed the shining start to the games they'd planned. Delusions of grandeur are nothing new for British international sports—and of course, neither is the self-flagellation that tends to ensue when the country's team fails to live up to expectations.

Cyclist Mark Cavendish was supposed to fuel the surge with a win in the road race Saturday, but the U.K. was shut out. On Sunday, Elizabeth Armitstead got edged by a wheel in the final sprint of the women's road race by Marianne Vos of the Netherlands. The favored Nicole Cooke finished 31st.

"This is all down to being proactive and willing to take the risk," said Dave Brailsford, director of performance for Team GB cycling.

The British also had their share of disappointment in the pool, where world champion Rebecca Adlington managed a bronze in the 400 freestyle, failing expectations.

As for the U.S., which relies on depth in swimming to rack up medals in all three colors, keep an eye on whether the team can manage multiple medals in a single event.

It hasn't happened yet. Michael Phelps failed to double up with Ryan Lochte in the 400 individual medley, Clare Donahue couldn't medal with Dana Vollmer in the 100 butterfly, and Caitlin Leverenz couldn't get to the podium with Elizabeth Beisel in their 400 individual medley.

Women's synchronized swimmers grabbed a surprise silver medal to make up for one of those losses.

But the aquatic shortfall is why the U.S. is looking up at the Chinese in both gold and overall medals right now.

By Matthew Futterman
Wall Street Journal



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