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Summer Olympics History: China's Greatest Olympians

Top Ten Men Since 1984

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China at the Summer Olympics

China sent its first full squad to a Summer Olympics in 1984. At just eight Olympics through 2012, the country's Olympians have earned 201 golds and 473 medals in all.

China was the leader in the medal table at the Beijing Games in 2008 with 51 golds, and was second to the U.S. in the overall medal count.

China's Olympic team returned home from the recently concluded London Games with second-place finishes in both categories.

The top sports for China over the past three decades have been badminton, diving, gymnastics, shooting, table tennis, and weightlifting.

The following list includes brief information on the ten men that I consider as China's best in the Olympics:

Chen Yibing: One of the many stars in men's gymnastics for China, Chen was an integral part of the squads that won the team golds at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Li Ning: Li helped make China's first full-squad appearance at the Summer Olympics a special one in 1984, with three individual golds in gymnastics and six total medals.

Li Xiaopeng: Li won two gymnastics golds as a teenager in 2000 at the Sydney Games, and was a dominant performer for many more years, especially on the parallel bars. His career was temporarily derailed by injury in 2004, but he earned another pair of golds four years ago at the Beijing Games.

Ma Lin: Ma is one of China's greatest table tennis players, which is high praise for a competitor from a country that produces so many of the world's best in the sport. He has the distinction of being the only man to win Olympic golds in singles, doubles, and the team event.

Sun Yang: Sun showed tremendous promise as a swimmer in freestyle distance events for a few years leading up to the 2012 Olympics. His performance at the London Games left no doubt that the 20-year-old Sun should be a force to be reckoned with in the sport for years to come. He took home four medals this summer, including golds in the 400 meter and 1500-meter freestyles.

Wang Hao: Wang has competed for China in table tennis at the last three Olympics-a testament to his tremendous skill and longevity. He has five podium finishes among his many accomplishments, including team golds in 2008 and 2012.

Wang Yifu: Over the course of his long, illustrious career in shooting, Wang captured six Olympic medals, with a pair of golds in the 10-meter air pistol.

Xiong Ni: China has produced many standouts in diving over the past three decades, and Xiong stands out among the men in Olympic competition. He won three golds in springboard events, among a total of five podium finishes.

Yang Wei: A versatile and superbly talented gymnast, Yang was victorious in the All-Around at the Beijing Games in 2008, improving upon his silver in the same event in 2000. He earned a total of five medals in his career.

Zou Kai: China's best-ever men's gymnast and most decorated Olympian, Zou starred at the last two Olympics. Still just 24 years of age, he has five golds among his six medals, including a pair of titles in the Floor Exercise.

Patrick Hattman covered the London Games for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is already looking forward to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

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