Mighty mediocrity of Chinese sports


One of the greatest regrets in an otherwise spectacular hosting of the Beijing Olympics for China must surely be its famous hurdler Liu Xiang pulling out of the 110m event due to injury.

As we recall the collective gasp that went around China following the announcement, recalls the other year of Chinese sporting disappointments that was 2005.

In 2005, China had major achievements in sports, but the regrets seem to overshadow them. What follows is a list of the 10 biggest regrets Chinese sportsmen and women had in 2005.

1) Li Xiao Peng failed to match the record of Li Ning.
Olympic gymnastics champ Li Xiao Peng started the year thinking he could match or even overtake his idol and predecessor Li Ning in the number of gold medals won during international matches. The junior Li (the two are not related, Li being the most common surname with China shared by nearly 100 million people) had garnered 13 gold medals. The senior Li, who retired after 19 years in sports and now runs a successful sports apparel firm with the same name, had collected 14. (Including local matches, Li Ning retired with 106 gold medals.) It seemed easy enough for Li Xiao Peng to win at least one more gold in 2005. But a twisted ankle and a waist injury from horse riding put paid to that ambition. Better luck this year.

2) It was a year of ups and downs for Lin Dan, the badminton champion of the world. On December 18, Lin trounced Thailand’s Ponsana Boonsak to win the men’s singles at the 2005 Invitational Badminton World Cup. But just four months before that he had suffered a terrible defeat (0 to 13!) at the hands of Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia at the World Badminton Championships held in California. To stay on top, Lin must learn to curb his erratic behaviour.

3) Olympic breaststroke queen Luo Xue Juan failed to get a gold at the world championship match, and came in only fourth at the 50-m race and seventh in the 100-m event. Just before the year’s end, there were rumours she had suffered yet another fainting spell poolside. She may just have to spend 2006 nursing herself back to health.

4) Triathlete Chen Lihong, 17, was killed in a road accident in the middle of December.
She died of head injuries after a car rammed into her and her team-mates during a training ride on a highway near Kunming, in Yunnan province. Chen was training for the 2006 Asian Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She ranked eighth in China's women's national team, 20th in Asia and 170th in the world.

5) Did she or didn’t she? Sun Yingjie, China's star long distance runner, failed the doping test after her second-place finish in the 10,000m race at China's 10th National Games on October 17.
Two weeks later, she again tested positive for the banned male hormone androsterone. Sun then sued fellow athlete Yu Haijiang for allegedly spiking her drink on October 16. Though Sun won her case, both she and her coach Wang Dexian were banned from competitions for two years. To add a twist to the already perplexing saga, Yu was trained by Wang Deming, brother of Wang Dexian.

6) Tien Liang, China’s handsome diving prince, was kicked out of the national team early in the year.
Tien won a gold and a bronze in the 2004 Olympics. He and then girlfriend, diving queen Guo Jingjing, accepted so many offers to feature in TV commercials, TV dramas and even films, that they got bad publicity. Guo and Tien split up a few months later. Guo quit acting and returned to the national team. Tien was not so lucky —he was sacked just a few days after signing a contract with Hong Kong’s Empire group, an entertainment outfit. He won a gold medal in the 10th National, but has not been reinstated. Perhaps he’ll have a reversal of fortune in 2006.

7) Lost by 0.001 second.
China’s fastest man Liu Xiang, the Olympics 110-m hurdle winner, lost out to Ladji Doucoure of France by one hundredth of a second, coming in second at the Helsinki World Championship in August. Though Liu, the first Chinese to win what is considered a Caucasian and black event, won the 110-m race at Yokohama in September, his timing of 13.08 seconds was behind his Olympic record (and world record) of 12.91 seconds. Moreover, Doucoure did not compete in Yokohama.


First Published: 
February 2006


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