With the Olympic games in Rio only four days away and over 240 Chinese athletes competing, knowing who to follow can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned sports fans. We compiled a short list of athletes you should be watching and rooting for, and why we think they might just bring those medals home.
Li Xiaoxia (table tennis)
The Wuxi native is expected to carry on the legacy of her trainer Li Sun, who produced Olympic-gold medalist Zhang Yining (affectionately referred to as the “Yellow Beast” in the 2008 games). According to the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Li currently ranks 5th in the world for women’s table tennis. We believe that her potential comes from her relatively young age- 28- and her consistent performance at international events. Watch her crush the competition on August 6th and 12th.
Sun Yang (swimming)
The object of much girl-fanning during the 2012 London games, Sun Yang seemed to be a likely candidate for becoming China’s next poster child. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Sun was barred from competing altogether after a doping incident in 2014. A vicious snowball effect ensued, with a sex scandal later that year and an SUV accident that found Sun without a license. Soon, the long-distance world champion seemed more likely to end up in a jail cell than an Olympic pool by 2016. Although his performance has been inconsistent in the past few years, his past performances and the fact that he shattered the 200 meters freestyle in world-record breaking time only a month ago makes us hope that he’s still got it. In addition, he’s at peak age for swimming- 24- and if he’s ever going to be a champion again, it would have to be right about now. Watch him swim August 7th, 8th, and 13th.
Yi Jianlian (basketball)
Although currently playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, Yi is no stranger to international competition. His dream of playing for the NBA came true in 2007 when he was drafted to the Milwaukee Bucks and eventually the Dallas Mavericks for two seasons. Yi’s potential comes largely from his experience- he played for the Chinese national team in 2004, 2008, and 2012. The seven-foot (2.13 meters) tall giant is likely to propel the Chinese team forward, even if they don’t necessarily win a medal. Watch him and his team play the U.S. on August 7th and France on August 9th.
Wu Mingxia (diving)
This one is a no-brainer. Although past victories do not guarantee future ones, especially in the Olympics, we have good reason to believe that Wu is an exception to the rule. As the only woman to ever win gold medals in diving for three consecutive Olympics, it is not unlikely that she score another medal, even if it’s not gold. Although already 30, Wu will only compete in one event (women’s synchronized 3-meter springboard) on August 8, which makes us believe that she’s been concentrating and training hard for it.
Tan Jiaxin (gymnastics)
Tan did not qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, but her growth in the four years since has been impressive. In the 2013 Doha world cup, she took home gold on the uneven bars, and in the 2015 Glasgow World Championships the Chinese team took silver, with Tan scoring higher on vault than most of her teammates. Watch her break the mold on August 7th.
Lin Dan (badminton)
Often known as the best badminton player of all time (seriously!), Lin Dan has won all 9 of the major titles in the badminton world. Most recently in March, Lin came out as top dog in the Yonex All-England badminton champs- for the sixth time. There is no reason to believe that Lin is not going to take home at least one gold medal from Rio this summer, so watch him light the court on fire on August 11th, 12th, and 14th.
Zhu Ting (volleyball)
The six-foot-five (1.85 meter) volleyball world champion uses her sheer energy and strength to intimidate her opponents. Although she now competes for a team in Istanbul, Zhu will make the rounds these Olympics competing for her home country. As one of the world’s top outside hitters, Zhu was named “Most Valuable Player” and “Best Outside Spiker” in the 2015 Asian Junior Championships. Watch China take on the Netherlands, Italy, Puerto Rico, Serbia, and the U.S. on August 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th, and 15th, respectively.
Ning Zetao (swimming)
Also an up-and-commer to watch for, Ning’s list of victories are recent but absolutely noteworthy. As the gold-medal winner in the 2015 Kazan swimming world championships for the 100-meter freestyle, Ning has helped further China’s reputation as a country that produces world-class swimmers. Watch him swim on August 10th and 12th.
...So who won’t you see?
-Jeremy Lin or Yao Ming (basketball)- in case you were wondering.
-Zuo Kai (gymnastics)
-He Kexin (gymnastics), China’s sweetheart and controversial age-bending champion.
-Liu Xiang (track and field), who announced his retirement last year following a series of minor injuries.
Cover photo: https://terrifictop10.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/china-olympics.jpg
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