Sun Yang is undoubtedly one of China’s top sports stars, in a bracket with tennis pioneer Li Na and perhaps badminton king Lin Dan as well. His commercial potential is huge, but he is his own worst enemy right now. Whereas Li’s image as a rebel, breaking free from the shackles of the state system, is not quite as the western media would have you believe, her conflicts with authority have in many ways added to her popularity – at least with the Chinese public, if not the domestic media.
Sorry for the lack of posts (a few busy/sick days…), but I’m back – as is Sun Yang.
The Chinese Olympic swimming champ has served his seven days in detention for driving without a license and is a free man once again, though is still banned from competition indefinitely and can’t even train with the national team. The Wuhan Morning News (via SCMP) has the scoop on the details of his stay behind bars: in another knock against China’s food safety, Sun was worried that any meat served to him could be tainted, resulting in a failed drugs test further down the line. So all the inmates had to go veggie for the week, since the guards weren’t allowed to serve him a special meal.
Here’s a look back at last’s month National Games, held in China every four years. I’ve written before about the ludicrous medal system that meant Heilongjiang province had amassed 43 medals before the Games even kicked off and how Sun Yang effectively racked up 11 medals. But the reason for all this medal mania is largely down to local sports officials who assume (usually correctly) that their promotion prospects depend on a nice haul of metal from their athletes, sort of like a sporting parallel to how local governments seek inflated GDP numbers. This leads to all sorts of tricks, including the trading of athletes between provinces. Here’s an extract:
Mengke Bateer is one of Inner Mongolia’s most famous sporting sons – sporting or otherwise. But the first Chinese basketball player to win an NBA Championship is the ultimate homer, representing represented host province Shandong Province in 2009 as well as host provinceand Liaoning Province in 2013. How do Inner Mongolians feel when they see him representing another province instead of their own? What do those in Shandong or Liaoning think when they know that they have sporting mercenaries instead of locals representing them?
Full article is here.
Remember how the medal tally system at China’s National Games is ridiculous, with certain performances from nearly four years ago being converted into medals that actually count at this event? Well, this is what happens. According to the official rules for counting medals, swimming star Sun Yang has won 11 medals for Zhejiang, 10 of them gold. Here’s how:
A little over a month ago, 17-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen was in pieces. The reigning Olympic champion in both the 200 and 400 IM had failed to win a medal in either race at the World Championships in Barcelona, and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu had reclaimed her position as the medley queen.
But things are looking up for Ye. She won both events in Shenyang at the Chinese National Games, but more importantly her times were competitive:
The far northeastern province of Heilongjiang came into China’s National Games with 43 medals already in the bank. Yes, you read that right. 17 gold medals were “won” before the official start of the Games, and only one of those was due to an event being scheduled ahead of the opening ceremony. That’s because some bright spark had the idea of converting medals from previous events into medals that actually count at the National Games:
Tiger Woods and Ye Shiwen might make an unlikely couple, but both are prime examples of athletes who have lost their sporting mojos. This week’s Sports Talk column looks at why athletes struggle to get back to their top of their game after losing form:
We tend to think of sports as being a purely physical pursuit, but at the very top levels, it’s far more about mental strength than anything the body can do. Just as a novelist can get writer’s block and be paralyzed for months, once an athlete loses their sporting mojo, it can be very hard to retrieve.
Sun Yang won his third individual gold medal at the FINA World Championships, adding the 1,500m title to his wins in the 400m and 800m. He kept pace with Canadian Ryan Cochrane for most of the race, and then blasted away in the final two lengths. It was well outside his own world record pace, but he never looked troubled. What’s more, he could easily have had a fourth gold: his anchor leg in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay, which pulled China up into the bronze medal position, was a full second quicker than anyone else swam in either the individual or relay events.
I’ve just spent a few days in Korea, where the country’s female golfers are perhaps as dominant on the world stage as any team in sports today. Comparing different teams in different sports brings to mind apples and oranges, but 35 of the world top 100 players are from a country with a population of under 50 million. South Koreans have won six of the past eight major championships, and came second in the other two.
What do they get for this? “Boring”, “faceless”, “robots”, “predictable” etc. Inbee Park has won three majors this year and gets fewer column inches than Hunter Mahan’s new baby. Today’s Sports Talk column looks at why sports stars might be better off striving for one level below perfection: become perfect and the fans and media will turn on you – or worse – just ignore you.
After winning nine of the ten diving golds on offer at the FINA World Championships, there have been very mixed fortunes for China so far in the swimming pool.