BEIJING -- Chinese media reacted angrily to doping accusations swirling around new swimming sensation Ye Shiwen, insisting she is being judged by an "old mentality" and by those who are "petty about the progress China makes."
The 16-year-old swimmer has won two gold medals at the London Olympics -- the individual medley at 200 and 400 meters -- and has denied any use of banned drugs.
She was so fast in the last 50 meters of the 400 medley that her time was quicker than that of men's gold medalist Ryan Lochte over the same leg. U.S. coach John Leonard was quoted in British media as saying Ye's performances were "unbelievable" and "disturbing."
On Wednesday, the state-run Global Times responded by saying questions about Ye's feats were unfair.
"The West still judges China with an old mentality, and is petty about the progress China makes," the newspaper said in an editorial. That was followed by the state broadcaster CCTV stepping in to support Ye on its noon newscast.
Ye's father, Ye Qingsong, told Chinese media that Western media are "always arrogant." Olympic organizers in London also defended the Chinese swimmer.
Ye received support Wednesday from the swimmer who finished second to her in Tuesday's race, Alicia Coutts of Australia.
"I feel for the poor girl, just to have that speculation weighing on her," Coutts said. "I believe in innocent until proven guilty."
For decades, Beijing has rallied public support with Olympic gold medals won by athletes trained in a Soviet-style sports system supported by the government. The achievements are used to inspire national pride and patriotism, and deflect criticism of the ruling Communist Party.
At the Beijing Games four years ago, China had the most gold medals (51). In London, China leads with 13, followed by the United States with nine. Both have 23 medals overall.
To many Chinese, the golds are a sign of the country's power, and gold medalists are rewarded far more generously than silver and bronze medal winners.
Sometimes that means tears of sorrow even when winning a silver, as was the case with weightlifter Wu Jingbiao this week.
"I let my country down; I let the Chinese weightlifting team down; I let everyone who has cared about me down. I am sorry," Wu said through tears after finishing second behind the surprise North Korean winner the 56-kilogram division.
In another case, medal hopeful in the women's 53-kilogram category, Zhou Jun, was attacked in the media after she was eliminated without a single successful lift. A Chinese newspaper called it the "most shameful defeat" in the history of Chinese women's weightlifting.