The Medal Machine Is Cranking

Bob Rosato / Sports Illustrated

Jiang Yuyuan

The symbolism of China's powerful emergence as an athletic nation was impossible to ignore. On the first full day of Olympic competition, Chen Xiexia, a 5-ft. (1.52 m) female weight lifter, heaved a barbell to the heavens and captured the host nation's first gold medal. Over the next four days, China's lifters won five more times. By Wednesday, the People's Republic already boasted 17 golds, seven more than the U.S. total.

With home-turf advantage in Beijing, China may finally snap America's hold on winning the most golds. But with the exception of gymnastics, in which China beat the U.S. in both...

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