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China's top 10 sports stories of the year

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-30 08:08
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China's top 10 sports stories of the year

China Daily unveils its picks of 2010

1. China breaks through at Winter Olympics in Vancouver

China's winter sports athletes put on a stellar performance at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in February; claiming five gold medals, two silver and four bronze, a record high since the country's debut at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

China ranked eighth on the medal table and, if counted by gold medals, was seventh.

Wang Meng won three gold medals in women's short track speed skating to lead all the Olympians, while the veteran pair of Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo clinched China's first figure skating gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Led by Wang, the Chinese women's short track speed skating team swept all four gold medals for the first time, breaking the domination of archrival South Korea.

The figure skating team also impressed by grabbing the top two positions as Pang Qing and Tong Jian won silver behind teammates Shen and Zhao.

The women's curling team took a bronze, which was China's first medal in the event at a Winter Olympics.

2. Asian Games dominance continues

China topped the medals table for the eighth successive time at the 16th Asian Games after collecting 199 gold medals, 119 silver and 98 bronze in Guangzhou in November.

The host also broke its previous record haul of 183, 107 and 51 respectively at the Beijing Asiad in 1990.

China continued its traditional dominance in swimming, track and field, diving, table tennis, badminton and gymnastics in Guangzhou, keeping a stranglehold on many of the titles.

The Asian Games also saw a strong comeback from China's star hurdler Liu Xiang, as he claimed his third 110m hurdles games gold medal in 13.09.

His goal next year is to take part in more competitions and his final aim is to recapture his best form for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

"I believe I can do it (win the Olympic gold medal again)," Liu said after the Asian Games final.

The Guangzhou Asian Games was held from Nov 12-27. It was the largest ever Asiad in history as it attracted more than 9,700 athletes, 184 more than participated at the Doha Asian Games four years ago. The games offered 476 gold medals in 42 sports, also the most ever.

3. Yao Ming falls again

A stress fracture to his left ankle could possibly end the giant's hoops career. Yao Ming had his 2009-2010 NBA season ended by a similar foot injury, but after seven games this season, with a 24-minute time limit on court, Yao seemed to have recovered from the stress fracture which sidelined him from May 2009.

However, the 30-year-old was shocked to discover the same injury was found during an MRI exam on Dec 17. And the Houston Rockets announced soon after that its all-star center would miss the rest of the 2010-2011 season.

Team physician Walter Lowe said reconstructive surgery is the usual treatment for such an injury.

However, as the new injury happened during his recovery process, Yao is consulting doctors to determine how he will proceed.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said he is hopeful Yao will recover and play for the team in the future, despite the latest setback.

4. Soccer's anti-corruption sweep

A sweeping crackdown on match-fixing, gambling and bribery rocked China's soccer community and shocked the world in 2010 as several top officials were arrested on bribery charges.

Initiating investigations last October on gambling charges against former Chinese Super League (CSL) club Guangzhou Yiyao, the Ministry of Public Security struck its first blow for the anti-corruption probe when Nan Yong, a former soccer chief, and Yang Yimin, an ex-deputy director of the Chinese Football Administrative Center, were arrested on match-fixing charges in March.

As the crackdown continued, Xie Yalong, Nan's predecessor, Wei Shaohui, a former leader of the Chinese national soccer team, and Li Dongsheng, a former chief of the Chinese Football Association's referees committee, were arrested in September.

The nation's once-deemed fairest referee, Lu Jun, was also implicated in a probe that has seen nearly 20 top officials and referees netted and charged.

"After the long-term effort, the anti-corruption campaign has obtained a great achievement, seeing many corrupt officials arrested. But the effort still goes on and we should reform the professional league's entire operating system, which is the root of all the scandals," said Liu Peng, China's sports chief.

5. Women's tennis glory

Li Na and Zheng Jie wrote a new chapter in Chinese tennis history by reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open.

It marked the second time a Chinese player had entered the last four of a Grand Slam event, following Zheng's amazing semifinal run at Wimbledon in 2008.

However, having Chinese players occupy half of the top-four draw was well beyond expectations as only a few nations, such as the United States, Russia and Belgium, in recent times, have been able achieve that.

Both failed to advance to the final - Li was edged out by eventual winner Serena Williams while Zheng was thrashed by comeback queen Justine Henin. But their achievements were significant enough as the Chinese players are now targeting a Grand Slam singles title in the near future.

After the Australian Open, Li continued to make history as she reached the third round of the French Open and quarterfinals at Wimbledon. In August, she reached No 9 in the world, a record for any Chinese player. She also won her first grass-court title, beating Maria Sharapova in the final at Birmingham.

6. Swimmers on the rise

Although there were no long-course world championships this year, Chinese swimmers impressed the world at the Asian Games and the Short Course Worlds.

At the Guangzhou Asian Games in November, the Chinese swimming team overwhelmingly surprised archrival Japan with 24 gold medals, 16 silver and 14 bronze.

Nineteen-year-old Sun Yang won the men's 1,500m freestyle in Guangzhou with a new Asian record of 14:35.43. The time was only 0.87 seconds behind the world record of 14:34.56 set by Australian great Grant Hackett.

The men's team also won its first gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay, breaking Japan's more than 50-year dominance.

In the short course worlds the following month in Dubai, the women's team won gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay. China's Zhao Jing also claimed gold in the women's 50m backstroke with a time of 26.27 seconds. The Chinese swimmers won three gold, five silver and six bronze medals to rank fourth in the tally behind the United States, Russia and Spain.

7. Women's teams stumble

Chinese women's paddlers and shuttlers suffered rare defeats on the world stage this year as they relinquished their world titles.

During the Uber Cup in May, China's women's badminton team was stunned 3-1 by South Korea in the final, ending its hopes of winning its seventh straight world team title. Boasting the top three singles players and top two doubles pairs in the world, the Chinese were overwhelming title favorites. But they were beaten by a gutsy Korean team.

A few days later, the Chinese women's table tennis team was stunned by Singapore at the World Team Championships in Moscow, a defeat that denied it a ninth consecutive world team title. Similarly, the Chinese team line-up boasted the world's top ranked singles player, Liu Shiwen, and doubles pair but was ambushed by a better-prepared Singapore team, which included several former Chinese players.

After some serious soul-searching, both squads managed to come back strongly at the Guangzhou Asian Games and claim the titles against South Korea and Singapore respectively in repeat title matchups.

8. Age-cheating gymnast punished

China's women's gymnastics team bronze medal from the Sydney Olympic Games was stripped in April by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after the team was found to have an under-age representative, Dong Fangxiao. The medal was given to the fourth-placed US team.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) nullified Dong's Sydney results in February, claiming her birth date, registered at the Beijing Olympics, where she worked as a national technical official, was Jan 23, 1986, which would have made her 14 in Sydney - younger than the age limit of 16. Her birth date in the FIG database is listed as Jan 20, 1983.

Because Dong's scores contributed to China winning the team bronze, the FIG recommended the IOC take back the medal.

Chinese officials claim they didn't doctor Dong's age at the Sydney Games. They said it was Dong and her family who changed her birth date to be three years' younger after her retirement.

The IOC executive board upheld the request and formally stripped the medal. The IOC said Dong had also been stripped of her sixth-place finish in the individual floor exercise and seventh-place effort in the vault.

9. Big investment from Evergrande

Shortly after Guangzhou FC was relegated in March to the second division for its role in match fixing in 2006, the Evergrande Group, which already owned a women's volleyball team in the domestic league, became the new owner of the club.

It then formed an expensive lineup by signing a lot of national team players, foreign players and South Korean coach Lee Jang-soo. The side then won the League One title and is now aiming at a top-four finish in the top-flight league this coming season.

Meanwhile, its women's volleyball team, which is considered the first truly professional club and different from other mainly local government funded teams, also advanced to the top league in a year and is now leading in the ongoing competition under the guidance of renowned coach Lang Ping.

The Guangdong Evergrande team is now the only side in the top-flight league that has foreign players. It signed three foreign spikers this season, including Logan Tom from the United States.

10. Doping still a scourge

Three renowned Chinese athletes, Olympic judo champion Tong Wen, former women's badminton world No 1 Zhou Mi and professional cyclist Li Fuyu, all tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol.

Tong, winner of women's 78kg section at the Beijing Olympics, received a two-year ban in May for failing a test at the 2009 World Championships in the Netherlands.

Tong became the first Chinese Olympic champion to be banned for doping and was stripped of the gold medal she won at the Worlds. But she did not have to give up her Olympic medal, which was won in women's 78kg section at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Zhou, who switched to play for Hong Kong in 2007, tested positive for the same substance in August and also faces a two-year ban.

Meanwhile, Li, China's most prominent professional road bicycle racer and a teammate of Lance Armstrong on Team RadioShack, tested positive for the anabolic agent in a pre-competition test on March 23 during the Dwars door Vlaanderen race in Belgium.

The 32-year-old first became Armstrong's teammate in 2007 when he joined the Discovery Channel team and rode with the seven-time Tour de France winner early this season in the newly-formed Team RadioShack, under manager Johan Bruyneel.

China Daily