Beijing (AFP) – China celebrated a record number of gold medals as the Winter Olympics in Beijing ended on Sunday, beating top geopolitical rival the United States by narrowly to third place in the number of medals.
Traditionally much stronger in the summer games, China earned unprecedented nine gold medals during its home-hosted winter edition after the state plowed resources into training.
On Sunday afternoon, at least four trend hashtags related to China’s best features had received nearly 200 million views on the Twitter-like platform Weibo.
Much of that comment was as happy to beat the United States by one spot as it was China’s best winter finish.
“Last year, the United States surpassed China by one gold medal at the Summer Olympics, this year China surpassed the United States by one medal,” read a comment that was liked more than 2,800 times.
The Chinese team won 15 medals in total – nine gold, four silver and two bronze.
Figure skating duo Han Cong and Sui Wenjing secured the country’s final Olympic gold – and broke a previous world record – in an emotional doubles tournament on Saturday night.
The winter power plant Norway was in first place with 16 gold medals and a total of 37. Runner-up Germany received 12 gold and 27 medals in total.
Beijing sees the Winter Games as a propaganda showpiece, with which one can refine its international image and project soft power abroad.
But the event has been clouded by political controversy.
The United States led a diplomatic boycott of the Games over China’s human rights record, which was endorsed by several Western countries.
The Games also saw a doping scandal involving a teenage Russian athlete and growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, Chinese medal winners have been named national heroes by state media, while Chinese social media have been flooded with patriotic comments.
“I’m so proud of the Chinese team’s performance,” 32-year-old technician Min Rui told AFP on Sunday as she traded with two girlfriends near an Olympic countdown clock in one of Beijing’s central districts.
“The winter sports industry is still in its infancy and many athletes were selected from other sports. So getting third in the medal standings, ahead of countries like the US and Canada, is a true achievement.”
Beijing’s investment in developing winter sports has fostered a new generation of breakout stars.
Among them are the teenage champion in snowboarding Su Yiming and the Chinese-American skier Eileen Gu, who is the most decorated Chinese athlete with two gold and one silver medal.
Gu switched to compete for China over the United States in 2019.
China won one gold and a total of nine medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
It had never won more than three gold medals in the history of the Winter Games.
© 2022 AFP