Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 4: Neck-and-neck medal race between China and Britain

With sports action at the Beijing Paralympics in full swing, China and Britain are competing for the top spot in terms of the total number of gold medals.

At the end of Day Four, China was in the lead with 24 golds, followed by Britain with 21 and a distant United Sates with 15.

But at one point in the day, Britain leapfrogged overnight leader China, before the host nation returned to the top mostly because of the super performance of their table tennis players.

China's Zhang Lixin greets the audience on the podium during the awarding ceremony for the final of men's 400m T54 of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, Sept. 10, 2008. Zhang Lixin claimed the title of the event with a time of 45.07 seconds and set a new world record.
Liu Jing, Li Qian, Zhou Ying and Ren Guixiang were all victorious in their respective classes, giving China four out of five table tennis gold medals on offer Wednesday.

Polish teenage star Natalia Partyka spoiled a clean sweep by China as she defeated Fan Lei in straight sets to successfully retain her crown in the F10 category.

"In Athens four years ago it was easy. Here I had much better opponents but I concentrated hard and just played my own game," said Partyka.

Gold medalist Heather Frederiksen of Great Britain, silver medalist Jessica Long of the United States and bronze medalist Mariann Vestbostad of Norway pose for photo at the awarding ceremony of women's 100m backstroke S8 during the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, Sept. 10, 2008.
"Unfortunately, table tennis is not so famous in Poland. I love to play in China. China is my lucky place," added the 19-year-old.

Partyka, born without a right hand and forearm, and South African amputee swimmer Natalie du Toit are the only two Paralympians who competed in last month's Olympics.

However, two other Athens champions - Mateja Pintar of Slovenia and Zhang Xiaoling of China - suffered bitter defeats. Zhang, a 51-year-old veteran who was seeking her sixth straight Paralympic singles title, lost 3-2 to Sweden's Josefin Abrahamsson in the semifinal, and Pintar was beaten 3-1 by eventual winner Li Qian in the battle for a final berth.

Andrea Zimmerer of Germany, Clara Podda of Italy, Kelly Van Zon of Netherlands and Tommy Urhaug of Norway, all seeded No.1 in their respective classes, also fell at the semifinal stage.

There was more Chinese success in track and field, with Zhang Lixin , Zhu Pengkai and Wu Qing all striking gold medals and breaking world records. Wu Guojing added a powerlifting gold for China when he won the men's 52kg division.

In cycling, Britain was just as dominant as China in table tennis. British riders nabbed three more golds at the Laoshan Velodrome on Wednesday to increase their haul to 12.

They won all but one Paralympic track cycling event in which they entered following last month's Olympics where the team won seven out of 10 titles.

U.S. athlete Nick Taylor uses his feet to throw the ball up into the air before hitting it with the racket tied to his left wrist during a Quad Singles quarterfinal match of the Beijing Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis event against Bas van Erp of the Netherlands at the Olympic Green Tennis Center Sept. 10, 2008. Taylor won 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 over van Erp Wednesday.
"For us, the British cycling team, I think we exceeded what expected - eight golds," said Darren Kenny, who led Britain to beat China for gold in the men's team sprint. "Now we've got 12 golds, so we have achieved our goal."

More than 4,000 athletes from 147 countries and regions compete here in 20 sports in five different categories of disability, with a total of 472 gold medals at stake.

The Paralympics will end on Sept. 17.

Related: Paralympic medal tally on Sept. 10

Kevin Paul of South Africa competes in the SB9 final of men's 100m breaststroke during the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, Sept. 10, 2008. Paul won the gold medal with a time of 1 min 08.58 secs.
Following is the Paralympic medal tally on Wednesday :

1 CHN - China 24 28 25 77

2 GBR - Britain 21 13 9 43

3 USA - United States 15 7 12 34

4 UKR - Ukraine 11 6 13 30

5 RUS - Russia 10 10 11 31

6 AUS - Australia 8 12 12 32

7 BRA - Brazil 8 6 6 20

8 RSA - South Africa 7 1 3 11

9 CAN - Canada 6 3 6 15

10 ESP - Spain 5 11 6 22

Source: Xinhua

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