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Asian Games 2018

Asian Games 2018: Team China flag bearer shock as Zhao Shuai is chosen over Zhu Ting, Sun Yang

The unheralded taekwondo exponent won the men’s under 58 kilogram in Rio and fits his country’s tradition of selecting reigning Olympic champions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 5:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 10:48pm

China on Thursday stuck to its tradition of naming a reigning Olympic champion as its flag bearer for the Asian Games, but it was neither women’s volleyball team captain Zhu Ting or swimmer Sun Yang as expected.

Instead, the unheralded Zhao Shuai, a taekwondo exponent who won the men’s under 58 kilogram at the Rio Olympics, was given the task of leading Team China into the opening ceremony in Jakarta on Saturday.

Team China general secretary Liu Guoyong made the announcement at Thursday’s flag raising ceremony at the Athlete’s Village, surprising a group of Chinese media who attended the function.

Zhao moves into the under 63kg category for the Indonesia Games as he has gained weight in the two years since Rio.

Although the 23-year-old is hardly a household name, Zhao, from Henan province, was the first men’s player to win a taekwondo gold medal for China.

He made headlines when he and his girlfriend Zheng Shuyin captured China’s only two taekwondo gold medals at the 2016 Games.

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Zhao’s height of 1.88 metres may have worked in his favour as Team China have a habit of choosing tall athletes as flag bearers.

Fencer Lei Sheng, who stands at 1.92m, was assigned the job for both the 2014 Asian Games and 2016 Rio Olympics after winning gold in the men’s individual foil at the 2012 London Games. NBA stars Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian have also performed the role.