Asian Games 2018

Year in review: Sun Yang, marathon cheats and Lin Dan lead China’s sporting winners and losers in 2018

  • Asian Games dominance follows on from groundbreaking victories in winter sports at Pyeongchang Games
  • Cheating pigeon racers, snooker players and marathon runners add a touch of scandal in mixed year
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 3:10pm

The last 12 months have been eventful for sport in China but when are they not? Here is the good, the bad and the ugly of 2018.

Pigeon plotters

Two pigeon fanciers hit the headlines this year for their nefarious scheme to defraud race organisers out of 1 million yuan (US$147,000). Their plan was simple, hiding the pigeons in milk cartons and taking the high speed train from Henan to the finish line in Shanghai.

Feathers were ruffled when the pigeons came first but at speeds faster than their 150km per hour top speed – the trains can reach top speeds of 350 kilometres per hour.

The pair were given suspended sentences and fined for their hare-brained plot.

Cheating Chinese pigeon racers hide birds on bullet train in short cut to US$147,000 prize money

Shenzhen Marathon cheats

A total of 258 runners were banned for cheating at the Shenzhen Nanshan half marathon in November. The vast majority of them, 237, were handed a two-year ban for cutting the course (and being caught on CCTV doing it) while 18 runners who had fake bib numbers and three runners doing the race for someone else were handed lifetime bans.

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China’s men’s hockey team

Hockey fans will long remember that the women’s team won silver against the odds at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008 but 10 years on the men reached a milestone of their own by qualifying for the World Cup.

They creditably drew with Ireland and England in the opening group stage games before losing to reigning champions Australia by an eye-watering 11-0.

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Team China at the Asian Games

China sent 845 athletes to Indonesia and they dominated, topping the medal table with 132 golds, 92 silvers and 65 bronzes to lead the count for the 10th time in Asian Games history.

The pool was fertile medal ground, with 50 picked up in swimming events, as was the track where China won 33 medals. With the exception of the men’s football, China impressed in the team as well as individual events.

It bodes well for the hosts in four years when they will want to be as dominant in Hangzhou.

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Winter Olympics and Paralympics golds

Pyeongchang in February and March was another international event where China showed its steel.

Speed skater Wu Dajing smashed the world record for the men’s 500m short track event and became the first Chinese gold medal winner in ice sports at the Olympics.

A month later it was the wheelchair curling team that made history with victory over Norway giving China gold, its first ever medal at the Winter Paralympics.

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Lin Dan on the outs

The badminton legend has gone from “Super Dan” to “First Round Lin” after an annus horribilis where he suffered nine first round exits in 19 tournaments. His dream of qualifying for Tokyo 2020 and a third Olympic gold looks some way off. But don’t put it past the greatest player of all time, even at 35.

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Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng banned

The 31-year-old snooker star has been suspended until 2029 for fixing matches. His ban of 10 years and nine months was lowered from 12 years for pleading guilty to fixing five matches at five different events. Cao Yupeng also got hit with a 30-month ban to become the first Chinese players fingered for fixing matches.

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Sun Yang’s national pride

The heart-throb dominated in the pool in Jakarta at the Asian Games in the summer, where he also won over Chinese fans by insisting that the national anthem be played again at a medal ceremony where the flag failed to fly properly. Finished off the year with bronze at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Hangzhou where China set an Asian record in the 4x200m relay.

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Su Bingtian and Xie Zhenye speed ahead

Su ran the 100m in 9.91 seconds in Madrid in June to reclaim the Chinese national record he had lost three days earlier to Xie, who had run 9.97. Su’s US coach Randy Huntington insists the 29-year-old can run even faster – perhaps as quick as 9.8 seconds if conditions conspire – but the 25-year-old Xie could be key to that.

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Zhu Ting and the women’s volleyball team shine again

The face of Chinese volleyball smashed it again this year.

She led her Turkish club side VakifBank Istanbul to retain their FIVB Club World Championship in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, and was named MVP along the way.

The 24-year-old won the Turkish League and Cup in addition to the CEV Champions League with her club. For China she won gold at the Asian Games and bronzes in both the Nations League and World Championships.

The nation expects at Tokyo 2020 but there’s a strong chance Zhu can win yet another gold.

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Li “The Leech” Jingliang leading the way for Chinese MMA

The biggest star of the nascent mixed martial arts scene started the year with a controversial loss to Jake Matthews that will be not forgotten for an eye gouge on the Australian. Li won his two other bouts, including in Beijing in November.

Li leads the way for the 10 Chinese fighters on the UFC books, but they will look to be adding to that after announcing the opening of a performance centre in Shanghai.

It was also a landmark year for Xiong “The Panda” Jingnan, who won at the One Championship’s Shanghai event to set up a fight with Angela Lee.

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