At the end of all the action and the endeavour for excellence what matters in any Olympics is the final count of medals. Nothing reflects at a glance the efforts of the sportspersons of a country better than the medals tally.

Over the years, the USA has had a dominant place on the medals table and in Olympic history America has won more number of medals overall than any other country. Competition has been on the rise through the years and in 2008 in Beijing there was the first indication of an Asian country challenging the US’ supremacy. Host China cut a new path in the road to glory.

Fascinating journey

For a country that was invited at the eleventh hour and just about made its Olympic debut in 1952 in Helsinki (participating in just one event, swimming), China’s has been a fascinating journey in the quadrennial Games.

It is a different matter that after Helsinki, China remained out of the Olympic gamut for four decades for various political reasons.

If China took the sports world by storm, so to say, in Los Angeles, finishing fifth overall but fourth in terms of gold medals won (15), then in Beijing (2008) it touched the pinnacle.

The country finished with maximum gold medals (51) for an overall collection of 100 medals, ten short of the table-topper USA.

Call it home advantage, if one need to, but it must be said China’s show was outstanding. Every nation which played host had gained in medals but where China beat them all was that it had improved its overall medals collection. As time passed China gave the World some incredible sportspersons. Names like Li Ning (gymnastics), Gao Min (diving), Deng Yaping (table tennis), Fu Mingxia (platform diving) and Liu Xiang (hurdles) and a host of others had given Chinese sports a new stature and dimension.

Liu, who dropped out in tears in front of home fans in the Beijing Games due to an injury, is once again one of the favourites in the 110m hurdles in the London Games.

More will keep coming to ensure China’s premier place. Observers believe that China’s strength lay in its youth level programming and rigorous training system.

The stress has always been, after a stage, on creating elite level athletes and sides with a large reserve to fall back on.

It speaks of the wealth of talent in the country that just a year before the London Games, China has laid siege on such sports as diving, gymnastics, table tennis, weightlifting and shooting.

The country has a plethora of world champions in these disciplines, all ready for Olympic fame.

Yet, can the US, Russia, Germany or even the UK at home be left behind. Every nation sends its best but what separates the US from the rest is the choice it has in hand. Certainties sometimes slip like defending Olympic champion in gymnastics Nastia Liukin who had a fall and went out in the trials, but there is enough in reserve. When US athletics official claim they are looking for 30 medals in athletics, they know the country’s wealth of talent. Such is the excitement in the women’s section that there is prediction of winning events US do not usually! Then there are the other sports to score from.

Simply put, it is doubtful if any classic contest in London will fail to feature a US sportsperson.

On all counts then it is difficult to look beyond US for the top spot no matter China’s emergence.

Interest will also be on the other top rung countries like Russia for instance, which according to its Olympic committee chief Alexander Zhukov is targeting a third place.

Redeeming its position as a top force is Russia’s core plan. And for this the ROC, it is reported, has even offered $ one million to anyone winning a gold medal. The spotlight will be on Yelena Isinbayeva, the champion pole vaulter to show the light and the path.

Germany is concentrating on swimming, cycling, equestrian in addition to athletics to grab attention while host Britain with the advantage of fielding contestants in all disciplines hopes for a fourth-place finish. It had 47 medals in Beijing from 11 disciplines.

The Beijing show was one of best for Britain and officials believe anything above that performance was a big success. Cycling, swimming, rowing aside from athletics are the areas of medal-interest for Britain. Interesting times are ahead.

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