Asian Games 2018: Team China stars Lin Dan and Sun Yang headline ones to watch in Indonesia
The swimming sensation and the badminton veteran are just two of a host of mainland athletes ready to impress
China have a long history of dominating the medal table at the Asian Games and they head to Indonesia with a host of athletes primed to take gold.
They’ve got medal chances across the board but some of their athletes possess that extra-special edge that will have the crowd on the edge of their seats – here’s our five stars to watch.
Sun Yang, 26
Olympic gold: 2012 London 400m and 1,500m; 2016 Rio 200m
The triple Olympic gold medal winner is the biggest star in Jakarta, leading the Chinese legion against major rivals Japan in the pool. Four years ago in Incheon, Sun won three golds [400m and 1,500m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relay] and was second in the 200m. Controversy followed though when Chinese authorities revealed Sun had “secretly” served a three-month doping ban before the Games. Sun will take part in four individual events in Jakarta – 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m, and the 4x200m freestyle relay. If he is unbeaten, and coupled with his two gold at the 2010 Guangzhou Games, Sun will become China’s second highest gold medal winner in the Asiad, behind shooter Wang Yifu’s 14.
Su Bingtian, 28
Athletics: 100m, 4x100m relay
Personal best: 9.91 seconds (100m) and 6.42 seconds (60m)
Other achievements: 2018 World Indoor Championships 60-metre silver medal
The diminutive Guangdong runner will turn 29 in late August but his sprinting career seems like it is just beginning. He has set personal bests this year in the 60m and 100m. His 9.91 runner-up finish in an IAAF World Challenge meeting in Madrid in June makes him the current co-holder of the Asian 100m record, tying Nigerian-born Qatari Femi Ogunode’s mark from 2015. Su’s record came just three days after teammate Xie Zhenye achieved a China national best of 9.97 seconds in France. Su came second in the 100m in Incheon four years ago, just behind Ogunode. The Chinese sprinter will also face stiff opposition from Japanese runners Aska Cambridge, who was born in Jamaica, and Ryota Yamagata. Su will also lead the 4x100m relay team as they seek a hat-trick of golds.
Lin Dan, 34
Olympic gold medallist in 2008 and 2012 and Asian Games champion in 2010 and 2014
This will be Lin’s fifth appearance at an Asiad, but the first since Busan in 2002 where the Chinese legend will not play in the men’s singles. Lin won a silver at Doha 2006 after losing to Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, but was unbeatable in Guangzhou and Incheon. However, Lin will have to sit out as his world ranking falls behind Chen Long, the 2016 Rio Olympic champion, and emerging star Shi Yuqi, who beat Lin in the round of 16 at the World Championships before the Games. With another veteran, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, pulling out because of injury, the men’s singles in Jakarta will not be the same. But Lin’s presence in the team event will be a great asset as China face tough competition from Japan, headed by newly crowned world champion Kento Momota.
Zhu Ting, 23
Women’s volleyball: outside hitter
Gold medallist 2016 Rio Olympics, 2015 World Cup champion
With nine players from the champion Rio Olympic team, women’s volleyball rates highly among medal chances for China in the three traditional ball games – ahead of soccer and basketball. Zhu was the MVP in Rio, the third Chinese women to win the honour, but it was her post-Rio career in Turkey that made her even more famous. The powerful spiker became the highest paid player in the world with a reported annual salary of €1.5 million (HK$13.5 million), steering Vakıfbank Istanbul to the FIVB Club World Championship in 2017 and the European Champions League in 2017 and 2018. China were Asian Games champions four times in a row before Incheon, where they sent a second string team because of a clash with the world championships. They were runners-up to hosts South Korea and look certain to reclaim the title in Jakarta.
Backhand Loop | Xue Fei and Fan Zhendong!
— T2APAC (@t2apac) June 19, 2018
Fan Zhendong, 21
Table tennis: men’s singles world No 1
Gold medal at 2018 team world championships, 2016 World Cup singles champion
Two years ago in Rio, the youngster from Guangdong was overlooked in a squad packed with superstars – Ma Long, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike. Now he is the leader in a seemingly unbeatable team. China have only lost the men’s team title twice since their Asian Games debut in Tehran in 1974, while other big names such as Ma and Wang Liqin have won singles gold. With Japan keeping their big guns at home and South Korea struggling to regain their best days, Fan can stake his 2020 Tokyo Olympic claim in the team and singles events.