How did China win so many gold medals at the Olympics?
Of course it helps if you have a billion people.
But that on its own isn’t the answer.
India also has a billion people but they didn’t win any gold medals.
So the answer isn’t just size.
The answer is China targeted gold medals using predatory thinking.
The start point was simple.
As far as the ranking tables are concerned, a gold medal is a gold medal.
The most competitive, most difficult gold medal of all still only counts as much as the easiest.
Based on that, the approach to the competition changes.
You don’t ask simply where you as a country are strongest.
You ask where the other countries are weakest.
You don’t ask which sports you stand the best chance in.
You ask which sports are easiest to win.
You don’t just look at the standard of the competitors involved.
You look at the resources different countries allocate.
All of that is predatory thinking.
Which is about changing the rules to create unfair advantage.
And, of course, all advantage is unfair advantage.
Otherwise it wouldn’t be an advantage.
For instance, it made sense for China to target competitions that gave golds in different categories.
This gave them more chances of winning.
And it made sense to look at the sports which would attract less attention and financial resources from rich western countries.
It also made sense to look at the world outside the rich western nations.
To see where the poorer countries spent their resources.
All of these questions threw up an obvious opportunity.
Women’s weight lifting.
One: there are three weight classes, so three possible gold medals.
Two: western media doesn’t find female weight lifters attractive, so there’s less interest, so there’s less resource allocated.
Three: poorer countries spend most of their resources on male athletes, they’re less interested in women’s events.
This made female weight lifting three out of three for the Chinese.
So they targeted it as an opportunity.
They looked at what qualities a woman would need to be good at it.
She’d need to be strong obviously.
She’d also need big hands for a good grip.
She’d need big feet for stability.
And explosive power, rather than just durability.
All of which pointed to country girls, shaped by generations of women working on the land.
So the Chinese authorities sent scouts to the vast rural regions of China.
Here they found young girls who had the basics for what they needed.
Plus families that were much poorer than the families in towns.
Families that would gladly send their daughter to be cared for, fed, clothed and housed, by the state.
And where their daughter could earn more than she ever would on the farm.
With these criteria in place, China began to seriously train female weight lifters.
China won gold medals in all three female weight categories.
Helping China finish second overall to the USA.
Beating the entire rest of the world.
China got the gold medal for predatory thinking.