As a number of countries bemoan the lack of medals at the recently completed Rio Olympics, spare a thought for the Chinese athletes who were ridiculed by state media as the "worst Olympic flop".

"You kidding me? The country which has never finished above China is about to," the official Xinhua news agency said alongside a picture of China third on the medal table behind the United States and Great Britain. The tweet was later removed.

China sent a team of 410 athletes and finished with 26 golds compared to Great Britain's 27, their lowest gold medals tally since Atlanta in 1996, where they finished with just 16.

The continued to dominate in table tennis (seven golds) but won only one swimming gold (five in 2012) and none in gymnastics, a sport they are traditionally strong in (four golds in London in 2012).


State media labelled the Games as China's "worst Olympic flop" and cited Britain's spending as the reason Team GB toppled them on the medal tally. Others said sport's bosses needed to move with the times.

"Simply speaking, the theory of 'high investment produces high output' also applies to the Olympics Games," an article in the Beijing News read.

It was an uncomfortable Games for China in other areas, including when Australian swimmer Mack Horton labelled Chinese rival Sun Yang a "drugs cheat" and French competitor Camille Lacourt went further to say Sun "pisses purple".

Chinese officials were also upset the US were allowed to re-run their women's 4x100m relay heat after dropping the baton and knocking the Chinese team out of the event. The US went on to win gold.

Liu Peng, head of China's Olympic committee, said rising standards in other teams had taken them by surprise and they would come back strongly in Tokyo in 2020.