Rio Olympics 2016: Team GB beat China to finish second in medal table

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Great Britain's Olympic review

Great Britain have finished second in the medal table at the 2016 Olympics - above sporting powerhouse China.

One of the event's dominant nations, China have won more than 200 golds since returning to the Games in 1984.

Britain ended the Rio Games with 27 golds from 15 sports, one ahead of China.

Super-heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce won GB's final medal, a silver, as they finished with a total of 67 from 19 sports, beating the 65 at London 2012.

Rio 2016 medal table top three
Full medal table
Great Britain27231767

Since the modern Olympic era began in 1896, no country has increased its medal tally at the summer Games immediately following one it hosted.

GB have also smashed their pre-Games target of at least 48 medals, which was set by UK Sport.

That means Rio 2016 is the nation's most successful 'away' Games in history.

China, with a population of 1.357bn to Britain's 64.1m, have amassed more medals (70) than Team GB in Brazil, achieving notable success in table tennis, diving and weightlifting.

However, GB are ahead on golds, which is what the rankings are based on.

Asked if the achievements in Rio were better than London 2012, Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, told BBC Sport: "Absolutely.

"It is more of a thrill because although we knew we had medal potential, we were not as sure about the environment in which we were competing.

"Those of us involved know that there is still a huge amount that can be improved. As we look beyond Rio and on to Tokyo, it is looking really exciting."

UK Sport performance director Simon Timpson insisted the success was "not happening by chance", adding: "This is success by design."

Britain effectively clinched second spot when kayaker Liam Heath, boxer Nicola Adams and runner Mo Farah won their events on Saturday.

Diver Tom Daley was another medal prospect but failed to make the final in the 10m platform diving, which was won by China's Chen Aisen.

Gracenote Sports creates a Virtual Medal Table for the Olympic Games based on data from events with world fields from London 2012 up to Rio 2016.

Its pre-Games predictions were:

  • US - 38 golds, 88 medals in total
  • China - 29 golds, 71 in total
  • GB - 18 golds, 56 medals in total

Gracenote's head of analysis, Simon Gleave, told BBC Sport: "The 70 total medals for China and 26 golds came very close to our Virtual Medal Table's pre-Olympic prediction of 71 and 29.

"However, it is that slight underperformance in gold medals which allowed Great Britain to take second place in the medal table.

"Initially, it looked as though it would be close for second place, with China just taking it, but the surprise gold medals from Nick Skelton and the women's hockey team made Great Britain the most likely country to finish second.

"Beating the London total of 65 medals was a realistic possibility once Britain won nine medals on 16 August - the best day's medal haul since Beijing 2008."

Gleave said Britain had outperformed in track cycling, artistic gymnastics, diving and flat-water canoeing.

"All provided more gold medals than the data suggested," he added.

Great Britain & N. Ireland27231567
Rugby sevens0101
Synchronised swimming0202
Table Tennis4206

How have China fared at previous Games?

China effectively returned to the Games in 1984.

They had been absent since 1952 - when only one athlete represented the nation - following a dispute with the International Olympic Committee over the status of Taiwan. Prior to that, the nation had not won any medals.

Since 1984, China have topped the table just once - at their own Games in Beijing in 2008, when they finished with 15 more gold medals than the US.

But in eight summer Games, they have only been out of the top four once. That was in 1988, when they were 11th with five gold medals.

At London 2012, China won 38 golds and 88 medals in total to finish second to the US. GB were third with 29 golds.

Since 1984, GB have never finished higher than third and were 36th in 1996, when rowers Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent won GB's only gold.

How close can GB get to the USA?

Should the most dominant sporting nation be looking over their shoulders? Not just yet. They have enjoyed their best Olympics since 1984.

The US have topped the medal table at five of the past six Games and achieved 100-plus medal hauls five times since Atlanta 1996.

American dominance in swimming and track and field has been the difference again. Can GB close that gap at Tokyo 2020?

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