Li Ning

No one knew what to expect when China arrived at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Furious at Taiwan's inclusion in the Olympic brotherhood, the People's Republic had, except for a couple of Winter Olympics appearances, boycotted the global gathering for nearly 30 years — and did so again in 1980 to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It had also failed to win a single medal at its last Summer Olympics appearance, in Helsinki in 1952. So when the Chinese team finally turned up in California, it was an entirely unknown quantity. That would soon change, thanks to one of the...

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