Chinese sports in 2015

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-25 5:03:03

The incidents that shaped nation’s year

If China's sporting year in 2014 was all about the individual, then this time around it was all about the team. There was no Li Na and no return for Liu Xiang, Ding Junhui started losing the plot and his ability to pot, risking his place at the Snooker World Championships, and Lin Dan started to look ­mortal, ranking below compatriot Chen Long for much of 2015.

These are the 5 events that took the headlines and defined the year in Chinese sports.

Beijing wins 2022 bid

Beijing was announced as the host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics and in beating Alamty of Kazakhstan it became the first city to host both the Summer and Winter games since they split in 1992. There were question marks over the bidding process as Western nations pulled out amid fears of going over budget and concerns over pollution and a reliance on artificial snow for the winning bid. Beijing has the benefit of having a track record at ably coping with the Olympics and have said that they will use the event as an opportunity to tackle the city's air pollution issue. An existing infrastructure proved too good to turn down for the IOC, who opted for Beijing's bid that plans to leave a legacy of skiing tourism in the neighboring city of Zhangjiakjou in Hebei Province.

CFA sees the path to glory

It is well known that the powers-that-be want China to host and win a World Cup. The first step to this has been taken now that the Chinese Football Association (CFA) has been freed from the control of the General Administration of Sports of China, the body which controls all the country's athletic pursuits. This is a bold step and one that aims to increase the ­popularity of the sport and the fortunes of the men's national team, plus a medium term goal of getting the women's team back to the game's top table. Growing Chinese investment in foreign professional clubs, most notably Manchester City, suggests a determination to implement this plan by learning from the leaders in the industry. With FIFA's current predicament, coupled with a public desire to invite the world game to China, it might be sooner rather than ­later that the CFA are laying out the World Cup welcome mat.

Glories at home IAAF worlds

Chinese national men's 4x100-meter relay sprinters (from left) Xie Zhenye, Su Bingtian, Zhang Peimeng and Mo Youxue react after winning silver at IAAF worlds on August 29. Photo: IC

When the dust settled after the Beijing-hosted World Championships in August, it could be seen as a wonderful achievement for Chinese athletics in the Bird's Nest that hosted the 2008 Olympic Games. Nine medals, including a first gold, put China 11th on the medal table and fourth on number of medals. Wang Zhen recorded a personal best in the men's 20km walk to gain silver, while the 4x100m relay team - Mo Youxue, Xie Zhenye, Su Bingtian and Zhang Peimeng - came second to Jamaica's fliers. High jumper Zhang Guowei tied for silver on 2.33m, just a single centimeter behind the gold, and Wang Jianan took bronze in the long jump with a very creditable 8.18m. China's women performed even better than their male counterparts, and it was Liu Hong who grabbed the nation's first gold in the 20km walk - although compatriot Lü Xiuzhi could also have won, both finishing in 1:27:45. Silvers in the shot put for Gong Lijiao, hammer for Zhang Wenxiu and javelin for Lü Huihui, an Asian record, capped off a wonderful week.

Evergrande double up... again

2015 brought with it another double of the Chinese Super League and Asian Champions League (ACL) for China's most successful continental side. Brazilian Luis Felipe Scolari took over from Fabio Cannavaro and led the team to glory, ably backed by his ­compatriots - the free scoring pair of Ricardo Goulart and Elkeson plus a sprinkling of stardust from star signings Paulinho and Robinho. Local talent like full-back Zhang Linpeng, who was reported to be attracting interest from European top clubs, also came to the fore as Evergrande were taken to the wire by Shanghai SIPG and Beijing Guoan for their fifth domestic title in a row. In the ACL, Evergrande became the first Chinese team to win a second title after beating Al Ahli of the UAE in a tight two-legged final. ­However, the year was not without its controversies. Aside from sacking Cannavaro, Evergrande ended the season in a dispute with their shirt sponsors Dongfeng Nissan after changing the shirt sponsor for the ACL second-leg final to Evergrande Life, the insurance subsidiary of the owners, in turn jeopardizing a 110 million yuan deal. The sponsors returned for the FIFA Club World Cup but an initial victory over Club America was followed up with a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in the semi­final, where defender Zou Zheng broke his leg, before Evergrande let a 1-0 lead slip against Sanfrecce ­Hiroshima in the third-place playoff to lose 2-1. A fine season, ­nonetheless. 

Volleyball sees a spike in success

Players and coaches of Chinese women's volleyball national team celebrate after winning the World Cup in Nagoya, Japan on September 6. Photo: CFP

The Chinese women's volleyball team won the FIVB World Cup in Japan to end an 11 year wait for the title. Legend Lang Ping, known as the Iron ­Hammer in her playing days, returned to guide the team to victory, improving on the silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics­ in 1996 and second place at the 1998 World Cup during her first stint as coach. It was also an improvement on the team's second place at the World Championships in Italy in 2014, with 10 wins and one loss enough to see off the challenge of Serbia for the trophy as 20-year-old outside hitter Zhu Ting was named as MVP. She topped the best spikers list and was in the top 10 for top scorers and best blockers, while Chinese players also featured in the top 10s for best service and best setters highlighting the quality throughout the squad. A young team, including Zhu, 19-year-old Yuan Xinyue and 22-year-old Liu Yanhan secured China's place at the Rio Olympics. They can expect pressure to medal under Lang's tutelage.

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