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China stretch lead atop medal table

Tuesday, July 31, 2012    

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LONDON, England (AFP) — China stretched their lead at the top of the Olympic medal table yesterday, bagging three more gold medals, as Games organisers moved to quell anger over empty seats.

After a stellar opening weekend which saw them snaffle six titles, China scored wins in artistic gymnastics, diving and women’s weightlifting to take their total to nine.

China’s men’s gymnasts had endured a disastrous qualifying round but swept back to form to win the all-round team event and retain the gold medal won in Beijing four years ago.

But the biggest cheers were reserved for Britain’s gymnasts, who finished with a bronze — the hosts’ first medal of any colour in the team event since the 1912 Games in Stockholm.

Britain had initially finished in the silver medal position before being relegated into bronze as Japan moved up to second after an appeal, with Ukraine dropping out of the medals altogether.

Elsewhere, Li Xueying set two new Olympic records as she crushed her rivals on the way to clinching gold in the women’s weightlifting -58kg class.

The 22-year-old recorded a combined total of 246kg after snatching 108kg and registering a best in the clean and jerk of 138kg. Both the snatch and total were Olympic records.

At the Aquatics Centre, China’s Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan took advantage of a blunder by British duo Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield to win the 10m platform synchronised diving gold.

The British duo had been on course for the host nations’ first gold until a messy dive from Waterfield let the Chinese teenagers back into the contest.

The Chinese tallied 486.78 points ahead of Mexico’s Ivan Navarro and German Sanchez, who took silver, and American bronze medallists David Boudia and Nicholas McCrory. Daley and Waterfield finished fourth.

Chinese teenager Ye Shiwen was forced to defend herself against doping suspicions aired in the media following her world record-breaking gold medal in the 400m medley at the weekend.

The 16-year-old insisted she was clean after yesterday’s 200m medley heats, where she outpaced the rest of the field by nearly two seconds.

“There is no problem with doping, the Chinese team has a firm policy so there is no problem with that,” Ye said, when asked about her times.

The International Olympic Committee’s medical commission chief Arne Ljungqvist also leapt to Ye’s defence, calling the speculation around the youngster’s performances “sad”.

“For me, it is very sad that an unexpected performance is surrounded by suspicions,” he told a briefing.

Away from the medals, Great Britain and Argentina will meet in men’s field hockey after recent tensions between the two nations on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War.

Meanwhile, Switzerland footballer Michel Morganella became the second competitor to be sent home from the Olympics for posting racist abuse on Twitter after insulting South Korea’s players on the micro-blogging site.

“Michel Morganella has discriminated against, insulted and violated the dignity of the South Korean football team, as well as the South Korean people,” said Switzerland Olympic team chef de mission Gian Gilli.

Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was kicked out of the Olympics last week for a comment which poked fun at Africans living in the country.

Meanwhile, under-fire London Olympic organisers (LOCOG) continued to face criticism over the banks of empty seats which have been seen across various venues since the Games got under way on Saturday.

Some 3,000 tickets from international sports federations were “put back in the pot” and sold to the public Sunday, LOCOG said amid growing public anger over empty seats.

Organisers have blamed the unfilled seats on accredited officials and members of the media who have failed to take up their reserved places.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, LOCOG’s director of communications, said they had been able to get back 3,000 seats and resell them — and will repeat the move each day to make sure as many seats as possible are filled.

Brock-Doyle said organisers were making progress, but admitted that the redistribution of accredited seating was “not an exact science”.

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