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China 'moves on' from Liu Xiang

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James Reynolds | 17:23 UK time, Tuesday, 19 August 2008

You might think there'd be a period of national sporting mourning here for Liu Xiang (China's most famous sportsman, who pulled out of the 110m hurdles on Monday) - black drapes placed across his many advertisement, vigils on the street, a ban on public displays of affection, that kind of thing.

But China's far too busy inhaling gold medals to get depressed by Liu Xiang's departure. This country has won more gold than it has ever won before at a single games.

Tonight, I watched He Chong win the men's 3m springboard diving (a terrifying event to watch - since you spend your time in the crowd worrying that the divers will smash their heads on the diving board when they come twisting down from the sky).

But He Chong made it look easy. He carried a series of perfect dives, he bowed politely, and won the gold. The crowd cheered loyally - and everyone sang the national anthem together when the Chinese flag was raised above the pool.

I've been studying the victory poses of Chinese athletes at these Games. From what I can tell, a winning Chinese gold medallist essentially has three choices...

1) Humble servant - winner hugs coach, cries, stands politely on the podium, wells up a bit more, insists modestly that everyone else is responsible for his/her victory. exemplified by most of China's first-time gold medal winners.

2) Rock star - winner yells with joy, punches the air, nearly demolishes coach with hugs, throws clothes and equipment into crowd. exemplified by men's badminton singles winner Lin Dan who saluted the audience (as if everyone in the stadium was about to go to war) and then ran around trying to collect Chinese flags on an extended lap of honour.

3) Rightful champion - winner expects the rest of us to bask in the privilege of his/her greatness. exemplified by the female diver Guo Jingjing, whose greatest celebration after her first gold at these Games was a slight smile. She'd already won two golds in Athens - so she simply came here to collect another batch of golds that were rightfully hers.

If you've missed any of these celebrations, you've got plenty of chances to catch up. The Games aren't yet over - and China still has many more gold medals to come.


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