Yearender: Major Chinese sports news events in 2023

China Media Group (CMG) released its selection of the top 10 sports news stories of 2023 earlier this month, ranging from successfully hosting major events such as the Chengdu Universiade and Hangzhou Asiad to individual breakthroughs of swimmer Qin Haiyang and chess grandmaster Ding Liren. Here’s a review of major Chinese sporting news stories of this year.

Multi-sport events

Torchbearers light the main cauldron at the opening ceremony of the 31st International University Sports Federation World University Games in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, July 28, 2023. /CFP

Torchbearers light the main cauldron at the opening ceremony of the 31st International University Sports Federation World University Games in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, July 28, 2023. /CFP

From July 28 to August 8, Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, hosted the 31st FISU World University Games, drawing some 6,500 athletes from 113 countries and regions. Team China dominated the medal tally.

From September 23 to October 8, Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, hosted the 19th Asian Games, with over 10,000 athletes from 45 countries and regions competing in the quadrennial event. China won 201 gold, 111 silver and 71 bronze medals, breaking the 200-gold mark in the continental multi-sport event. It was also the 11th consecutive Asian Games at which China topped the medal table. At the Hangzhou Asian Para Games from October 22 to 28, China also sat atop the medal standings, with 214 golds and 521 overall.

From November 5 to 15, China’s first Student (Youth) Games took place in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, resulting from the merger of the National Youth Games and the National Student Games as part of China’s endeavor to improve its youth sports system.

Tennis

Zhang Zhizhen in action during the men's singles final at Hangzhou Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, September 30, 2023. /CFP

Zhang Zhizhen in action during the men’s singles final at Hangzhou Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, September 30, 2023. /CFP

Zhang Zhizhen in action during the men’s singles final at Hangzhou Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, September 30, 2023. /CFP

In January, 10 players from the Chinese mainland entered the main draw of the Australian Open, as the number reached a new high at the opening Grand Slam of the year. In February, Wu Yibing became the first Chinese mainland male player to lift an ATP Tour trophy at the Dallas Open. In September, Zheng Qinwen and Zhang Zhizhen shined at the U.S. Open, reaching the women’s singles last eight and beating a top-5 player in the men’s singles event, respectively, while a total of seven players made it past the first round. Shortly after, Zhang won the first men’s singles Asiad gold medal for China in 29 years in Hangzhou.

Chess

Ding Liren (L) wins the 2023 FIDE World Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, April 30, 2023. /CFP

Ding Liren (L) wins the 2023 FIDE World Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, April 30, 2023. /CFP

Ding Liren (L) wins the 2023 FIDE World Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, April 30, 2023. /CFP

On April 30, China’s Ding Liren defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia 2.5-1.5 in the 2023 FIDE World Championship final tie-breaker to become the first Chinese male player to win the chess world championship. The classical portion of the match ended in a 7-7 tie, during which Ding fell behind three times but always managed to equalize. After a final round that lasted six hours and 33 minutes, the two met the next day for a rapid playoff, in which Ding capitalized on his opponent’s mistake in the fourth game to win the final tiebreaker and the title, with the first three games ending in draws.

Basketball

Team China win the FIBA Women's Basketball Asia Cup in Sydney, Australia, July 2, 2023. /CFP

Team China win the FIBA Women’s Basketball Asia Cup in Sydney, Australia, July 2, 2023. /CFP

Team China win the FIBA Women’s Basketball Asia Cup in Sydney, Australia, July 2, 2023. /CFP

On July 2, China broke a 12-year title drought and ended Japan’s stranglehold of the FIBA Women’s Basketball Asia Cup with a 73-71 victory in the final to clinch their first Asia Cup title since 2011. Han Xu, who capped off a dominant tournament with 26 points and 10 rebounds, was named the Most Valuable Player and made it into the All-Tournament roster together with teammate Li Meng. The Chinese women’s basketball team went on to beat Japan again at the Hangzhou Asiad to retain their title.

Aquatic sports

Qin Haiyang in action during the men's 200m breaststroke heat at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, July 27, 2023. /CFP

Qin Haiyang in action during the men’s 200m breaststroke heat at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, July 27, 2023. /CFP

Qin Haiyang in action during the men’s 200m breaststroke heat at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, July 27, 2023. /CFP

From July 14 to 30, China topped the World Aquatics Championships standings in Japan’s Fukuoka with a total of 20 gold, 8 silver and 12 bronze medals in diving, swimming and artistic swimming, registering their best performance in the competition. Qin Haiyang became the first swimmer in history to bag three breaststroke gold medals in a single edition of the World Championships and broke the men’s 200m breaststroke world record. Later in October, Qin won the men’s overall title of the World Cup series with all breaststroke gold medals on offer in Athens, Berlin and Budapest.

Table Tennis

Team China at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 28, 2023. /CFP

Team China at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 28, 2023. /CFP

Team China at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa, May 28, 2023. /CFP

From May 20 to 28, China swept all five titles at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals in Durban, South Africa. Sun Yingsha and Fan Zhendong, who are currently ranked 1st in the women’s and men’s categories, respectively, exhibited their dominance by winning the singles titles. Fan and Wang Chuqin claimed the men’s doubles title. Chen Meng and Wang Yidi won the women’s doubles gold. Wang Chuqin and Sun retained their mixed doubles title.

Badminton

Team China at the 2023 Sudirman Cup in  Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, May 21, 2023. /CFP

Team China at the 2023 Sudirman Cup in Suzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, May 21, 2023. /CFP

Team China at the 2023 Sudirman Cup in Suzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province, May 21, 2023. /CFP

On May 21, Chinese shuttlers were crowned champions at the 2023 Sudirman Cup after whitewashing South Korea 3-0 in the final in Suzhou, east China’s Jiangsu Province. This was the third consecutive title for the hosts, as they won 13 championships in the 18 editions to date. Mixed doubles Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong recovered from one set down to beat Seo Seung-jae and Chae Yu-jung 18-21, 22-20, 21-8 before Shi Yuqi made it 2-0 for China, thrashing Lee Yun-gyu 21-13, 21-17 in the men’s singles. Olympic women’s singles champion Chen Yufei then sealed the victory for China, defeating world No. 2 An Se-young 21-16, 22-20.

Marathon

Yang Shaohui (C) finishes second in the 2023 Fukuoka International Marathon in Fukuoka, Japan, December 3, 2023. /CFP

Yang Shaohui (C) finishes second in the 2023 Fukuoka International Marathon in Fukuoka, Japan, December 3, 2023. /CFP

Yang Shaohui (C) finishes second in the 2023 Fukuoka International Marathon in Fukuoka, Japan, December 3, 2023. /CFP

On December 3, China’s Yang Shaohui clocked 2 hours, 7 minutes and 9 seconds at the 2023 Fukuoka International Marathon, slicing 21 seconds off of the previous men’s marathon national record established in March this year by He Jie, who shattered a 15-year-old record at the 2023 Wuxi Marathon.

Esports

Team China win the first ever Asiad esports gold medal at Hangzhou Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, September 26, 2023. /CFP

Team China win the first ever Asiad esports gold medal at Hangzhou Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, September 26, 2023. /CFP

Team China win the first ever Asiad esports gold medal at Hangzhou Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, September 26, 2023. /CFP

With esports making a debut as a medal event of the Asiad, China triumphed in the Arena of Valor Asian Games Version final to pocket the Asian Games’ first ever esports gold medal, while the Chinese team rounded off their campaign in Hangzhou with a total of four gold medals and one bronze medal in esports. 

Boxing

Zhang Zhilei wins the WBO heavyweight interim title rematch in London, UK, September 23, 2023. /CFP

Zhang Zhilei wins the WBO heavyweight interim title rematch in London, UK, September 23, 2023. /CFP

Zhang Zhilei wins the WBO heavyweight interim title rematch in London, UK, September 23, 2023. /CFP

On September 24, China’s Zhang Zhilei, nicknamed Big Bang, needed only three rounds to knock out British boxer Joe Joyce to retain his title of WBO interim heavyweight champion. He smashed Joyce with a sixth-round technical knockout in London in April to snatch the WBO interim title from his undefeated opponent.

Other

On February 11, the China Commission of Arbitration for Sport was founded in Beijing, marking a milestone as China took a step forward in terms of the sports arbitration system.

In June, a guiding document on promoting rural revitalization with sports was jointly released by China’s General Administration of Sport and related ministries, as China plans to organize more than 100 rural sports events by 2035, under the backdrop that this year saw a surge of public events in football, basketball, dragon boat racing and other sports that became immensely popular in rural areas across China.

In October, CMG signed and renewed cooperation agreements with multiple sporting organizations including the International Olympic Committee, Paris 2024 Olympic Organizing Committee, French Open, Ligue 1, U.S. Open, among other organizations. 

(With input from Xinhua)

Read more

CMG’s top 10 Chinese sports news stories of the year that made the country proud

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