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A new galaxy of stars

By Lei Lei (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-02 09:39
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A new galaxy of stars

A new galaxy of stars

Exciting young athletes are ready to take over from their senior Chinese compatriots, writes Lei Lei

A number of young Chinese athletes surprised the world in 2010, from the Vancouver Winter Games at the beginning of the year to the Asian Games at the end.

In gearing up for the next Summer Olympics in London in 2012 and the next Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, they are the hopefuls China will be banking on to continue its sporting glory.

The swimming pool gave China its biggest surprise last year as a new crop of young swimmers emerged on the world stage.

Nineteen-year-old Sun Yang stunned the world by winning the 1,500m freestyle at the Guangzhou Asian Games in November 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 in July 2001 and 10.41 seconds faster than the former Asian record of his teammate, Zhang Lin, the reigning men's 800m freestyle world champion.

Sun showed his potential in 2009 by taking a bronze medal in the longest freestyle event at the Rome World Championships. He also made it into the final of the 1,500m race at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, at the age of 17.

The strapping Sun has set his sights on breaking Hackett's mark at the World Championships this year in Shanghai and gold in the event at the 2012 London Olympics.

"To break Hackett's world record is my goal, and I will never give up. I will keep working hard after the Asian Games, and I hope I can achieve good results at the 2011 Shanghai Worlds and 2012 London Olympic Games," said Sun.

Women's swimmers Ye Shiwen and Tang Yi also impressed with steady performances throughout 2010

The 17-year-old Tang rose to be a new leader of women's freestyle swimming by claiming six gold medals at the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in August and four gold medals and two silver at the Guangzhou Asian Games.

The 14-year-old Ye is a specialist in individual medley events. She achieved the world's best time of the year in the 200m and the second best in 400m at the Asian Games.

The aim of the swimming team is to improve its already impressive form at the World Championships this year, and then rock the world at the 2012 London Games.

In winter sports, China's young squad of short track speed skaters pulled off some remarkable achievements at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games last February.

Nineteen-year-old Zhou Yang rose to be a new leader of the women's team after she made a breakthrough for China by winning the women's 1,500m race, snapping the dominance of archrival South Korea. She also helped the team to win the relay race for the first time at the Olympics. After winning three gold medals in Vancouver, Wang Meng withdrew from competitions, but Zhou should be ready to shoulder the task of maintaining China's advantage in the sport for years to come.

On the men's side, 18-year-old Liang Wenhao claimed 500m gold at the World Championships in March. It was the first gold medal for China in a men's individual event since the retirement of multiple world champion Li Jiajun.

In figure skating, the young pair of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong emerged as a strong medal contender, as the duo completed a quadruple throw in its first senior Grand Prix event this season and took the bronze medal in the Grand Prix final last year.