Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Missing sailor Guo Chuan’s wife in tears as she accepts special sports spirit prize at China’s Laureus Awards

The world record-breaking skipper of Qingdao China has not been seen since October 2016 while trying to set a new trans-Pacific mark

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 10:35pm

China sport has paid a special tribute to a man who is a national sailing hero but who has been missing for more than one year – by honouring him at the country’s Laureus Awards in Beijing.

While the big names such as swimmer Sun Yang and table tennis star Ding Ning took the main titles, a special sports spirit award was given to China’s record-breaking sailing pioneer Guo Chuan – who went missing on October 25 last year during an attempt at the world record for crossing the Pacific Ocean solo.

A 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race participant, Guo set a world record in 2015 when he and his crew of four sailors and one media personnel completed a 13-day sail across the dangerous Northeast Passage in the Arctic Ocean from Murmansk, in Russia, to the Bering Strait aboard their 97-foot trimaran Qingdao China.

Watch Guo Chuan aboard Qingdao China before he went missing

The award was collected by Guo’s wife Xiao Li at the ceremony on Wednesday night, who was greeted by rapturous applause from the audience. An emotional Xiao, who hasn’t given up hope of finding her husband, said the spirit award epitomised Guo’s philosophy on life.

“I thank everyone, I thank everyone for their concern,” a tearful Xiao said. “I am fine and my two children are also good.

”My husband, Guo Chuan, uses the spirit of life to lead us through difficult times and I believe that our family will be able to overcome this.”

Born in 1965, Guo’s love for sailing was strengthened in Hong Kong at the age of 33, when he stepped on a 40-foot keel boat.

In 2013, he became the first Chinese sailor to sail solo and non-stop around the world. He left Qingdao on November 18, 2012 and returned on April 5, 2013 after a 21,600-mile journey aboard his Class 40 boat.

On October 18, 2016 Guo left San Francisco aboard Qingdao China, hoping to cover 7,000 nautical miles and reach Shanghai in 20 days to break the 21-day record held by Italian Giovanni Soldini.

However, Guo’s support team lost contact with him on October 25. His boat was seen off the west coast of Hawaii but he was nowhere to be found. The United States coastguard called off the search two days later.

The main awards of the night went to three-time Olympic gold medallist Sun and singles and doubles world champion Ding, who won the best male and female athletes awards respectively.

Sun, who also won the award in 2011, took home a second prize as the most popular male athlete of 2017. At the world championships in Budapest, Sun won the 200m and 400m freestyle golds and set an Asian record in the 200m.

Ding, one of China’s most popular athletes, added the China Open title to her world golds in singles and doubles.

Chinese golfer Feng Shanshan won the best breakthrough award for her three LPGA titles in 2017 that helped her to become the first mainland player to reach number one in the world.

China’s synchronised swimming squad won the team award for their performance at the world championships while the best non-Olympic award went to Go player Ke Jie.

Former figure skating Olympic champion Zhao Hongbo won the best coach award for helping Sui Wenjing and Han Cong and other pairs achieve world-class standards.