They have had badminton players sent home for losing on purpose, a brilliant swimming prodigy caught up in a swirl of doping allegations and a gold snatched away from them in the women’s cycling team sprint.But in the wake of an eventful week, China remain on course for an epic tussle with the USA atop the medal table in the second half of the London Games. At the halfway mark, just two medals separated the superpowers in both the gold medal total and the overall tally and on Sunday morning they were tied on 54 medals, with the USA having won one more gold.
The USA have traditionally relied heavily on its dominance in the pool to provide a solid base for its track and field stars in the second week of the Olympics. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Tyler Clary have helped maintain that tradition but Ye Shiwen and Sun Yang have not allowed them to have things all their own way.
The huge investment put into Chinese sport over the years has also started to pay dividends in sports such as track cycling.
Gong Jinjie and Guo Shuang thought they had won gold in the team sprint on Thursday but, in much the same manner as the British pair Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish earlier in the day, found themselves relegated for an illegal changeover and ended up with silver.
USA will be looking to the athletics in the main stadium, the rest of the swimming competition and beach and indoor volleyball for medals.
China, meanwhile, are traditionally strong in gymnastics, badminton, weightlifting and table tennis. The rivalry between the two nations was intensified this week by the row over whether Ye’s performance in the 400m individual medley was “unbelievable”.
Ye herself said that the allegations were evidence of “bias” against China, with her supporters pointing out that other countries have multiple medallists and teenagers who have posted rapid improvements in their times.
The US Olympic Committee was forced to distance itself from the allegations, making clear the views of swimming coach John Leonard did not match their own. Before the Games, Chinese officials tried to play down their chances of beating the US in the medal table.
Xiao Tian, the deputy chef de mission, said the 396-strong team faced “unprecedented difficulties” in matching their feat of Beijing and topping the medal table.
Duan Shijie, another deputy chef de mission of the Chinese Olympic delegation, also urged caution. “USA will be the top country, and we may even have difficulty gaining second place,” he said.
In 2008, they easily beat USA, topping the medal tally with 51 golds compared to 36 for the Americans.
The race is expected to be closer this time but many believe that the huge sums and intense focus poured into developing homegrown talent for the eight years leading into the Beijing Games will pay off for China.
The London 2012 chairman, Lord Coe, said before the Games that he thought that China would top the medal table, followed by the USA and Russia.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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