Chinese New Year: China's best moments at the Olympic Games

Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics at the National Stadium (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics at the National Stadium (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Happy Chinese New Year! As people across the globe celebrate one of the world's largest festivals, Tokyo 2020 takes a look at the Olympic achievements and aspirations of athletes from the People’s Republic of China.

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox. In Chinese culture, the ox denotes hard work and perseverance - two of the most important qualities we see in athletes.

The country has been a part of the Olympic and Paralympic movement ever since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and Tokyo 2020 brings you the nation's greatest Olympic moments - from their first gold medal at Los Angeles 1984 - through to their hopes ahead to a summer of sport.

Xu Haifeng, Shooter and Coach passes the Olympic torch to Gao Min, diver during the final torch relay during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Xu Haifeng, Shooter and Coach passes the Olympic torch to Gao Min, diver during the final torch relay during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
2008 Getty Images

Historic firsts

The People’s Republic of China made their Olympic debut at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, but it would take over 30 years for Chinese athletes to make a significant mark at the Games.

On 29 July 1984, the final round of the Los Angeles Olympics men's 50m pistol competition took place at the Prado Olympic Shooting Park in Chino, California. With his very last shot, 27-year-old XU Haifeng outscored Sweden’s Ragnar Skanaker by a single point to win.

It was a historic moment and provided Team China with their first-ever Olympic gold medal. Later that year, Xu donated the medal to the National Museum of China.

Several days after Xu’s victory, WU Xiaoxuan became the first Chinese female Olympic champion after clinching gold in the women's 50m rifle three positions. Not only was it an Olympic first for Wu's home nation, it was a first for the Olympics generally as women's shooting events were included in the Olympic programme for the first time.

Los Angeles 1984 also marked the beginning of a historic winning streak for LOU Yun, with the gymnast winning the men's vault competition. Four years later, at Seoul 1988, he replicated his gold medal performance to become the first-ever Chinese back-to-back Olympic champion.

China win Women's Volleyball gold
01:40

China defeats Serbia to win gold in women's volleyball.

Inspirational wins

It is no exaggeration to say that every Olympic win is inspirational. But there are several victories that inspired a generation and are still widely talked about to this day.

As early as the 1980s, the Chinese women’s volleyball team have been thought of as legends in their home nation.

At Los Angeles 1984 they defeated the United States to win Olympic gold - winning a third major international title following the 1981 World Cup and 1982 World Championship. LANG Ping, the current head coach of the women’s volleyball team, was a striker in that team.

The strength and unyielding spirit of the team came to be known as the "women’s volleyball spirit" and people working in other professions were encouraged to learn from them.

However it took another 20 years before another generation of women's volleyball players would go on to win an Olympic gold medal - and it came at Athens 2004.

Twelve years later, at Rio 2016, they were back at the top of the podium with a third Olympic victory. The team, including star strikers ZHU Ting and HUI Ruoqi, broke Brazil’s undefeated streak at the Games in the quarter-finals and pulled off a massive upset with a 3-1 win over Serbia in the final.

Hurdler Liu's Historic Gold Display in Athens 2004
05:38

Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang has an Olympic past full of heartache, but also has an historic gold medal to his name from the Athens 2004 games.

At Athens 2004, a win on the track sent huge excitement back home when 21-year-old LIU Xiang crossed the finishing line of the men’s 110m hurdles in blistering speed.

Liu made history by winning China’s first gold medal in an Olympic sprint event, but his time of 12.91 seconds equalled the world record set by Britain's Collin Jackson in 1993 and set the new Olympic record, which still stands to this day.

The win made Liu a household name back home and he became known as "China’s flying man".

WATCH: Every Chinese gold medal point in Olympic table tennis - 2008 to 2016
02:36

Chinese players have dominated table tennis at the Olympics since it became an official medal sport in 1988, winning 28 of a possible 32 gold medals up to Rio 2016. Since 1996, China has missed out on gold only once - in the men's singles at Athens 2004. At Beijing 2008, new team events were introduced, replacing the men's and women's doubles. You can re-live every single gold-medal-winning point from Beijing to Rio in this video.

All eyes on Tokyo 2020

In northern China’s dialects, the word for ox —“牛”(niu) — can also be used as an adjective to describe somebody or something that is fantastic. When the Olympic year meets the Year of the Ox, the athletes will be ready, perhaps more than ever, to ensure they put in a fantastic performance at the Games this summer.

As a traditional powerhouse for sports like table tennis and badminton, the Chinese team will have a lot to offer in Tokyo.

Although the final lineups are yet to be confirmed, strong performances from players including CHEN Meng, MA Long, FAN Zhendong and SUN Yingsha at the 2020 ITTF Finals give us a glimpse of what fans can expect in the coming summer.

Meanwhile in badminton, Rio 2016 gold medallist CHEN Long will go all-out to defend his men's singles title with current world No.1 mixed doubles pair HUANG Yaqiong/ZHENG Siwei eager to win their first Olympic gold medal.

Mixed doubles stars Zheng, Huang: How 'hard' it is to defend top position
02:42

China's Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong have been the world's top-ranked mixed doubles pair for the last two years: "Defending the top position is harder than fighting for it," they admitted. Their recipe for success in Tokyo? "As long as you perform well in the process, good results will come naturally."

The Chinese swimming team is also expected to make a splash at the newly-built Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

At the 2020 Chinese Swimming Championships last October, XU Jiayu, YAN Zibei, ZHANG Yufei, and YANG Junxuan clocked 3:38.41 in the mixed 4x100m relay medley - a new event included in the Tokyo 2020 swimming programme - beating the 3:38.56 WR set by the United States in 2017.

All four are also set to give their best at the individual events, especially Xu, a two-time world champion (in both 2017 and 2019), and the silver medallist at Rio 2016 in the men's 100m backstroke, who has set his sights to the top podium this time around.

On the other side of the same venue, the diving "dream team" simply cannot be missed.

While defending Olympic champions SHI Tingmao and CHEN Aisen are expected to provide stiff competition for gold, a new generation of talents including 15-year-old CHEN Yuxi and 19-year-old WANG Zongyuan are widely predicted to form part of a "dream team" of talent.

Both have put in solid performances at China's Olympic trials and the entire team are preparing to take home gold in every single diving event - for the first time - this summer.

Xu Jiayu of People's Republic of China celebrates victory after winning Men's 200m Backstroke at the 2018 Asian Games (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
Xu Jiayu of People's Republic of China celebrates victory after winning Men's 200m Backstroke at the 2018 Asian Games (Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)
2018 Getty Images

At the same time, there are some comebacks to look forward to.

LIU Hong, a 20km race walk world record holder, and two-time Olympic taekwondo champion (in the -49kg category) WU Jingyu returned from retirement and are determined to shine again.

Last but not least, we cannot miss the debut of the new sports at the Games.

Kumite -61 kg world no.1 YIN Xiaoyan told Tokyo 2020 of her excitement that she could finally chase her dream at the Olympic Games, whilst in sports climbing, 20-year-old PAN Yufei will also strive to reach the top of the world when the sport makes its Olympic debut.

This is just a small fraction of Chinese Olympic hopefuls who are gearing up for Tokyo 2020, but in the Year of the Ox, it's time to enjoy all of the athletes' niu performances in Tokyo this summer!