Generation Z shines in National Games
Young athletes aiming at Paris 2024
Published: Sep 28, 2021 04:23 PM
Yang Qian

Yang Qian Photo: VCG


As China's 14th National Games drew to a close, Generation Z athletes have convinced the world with their solid performance.

Yang Qian, Li Wenwen and Quan Hongchan became champions in both the Olympic Games and the National Games in a span of two months, bringing promising prospects for the upcoming Paris Olympic Games.


Born in 2000, Li Wenwen is undoubtedly the most popular Gen Z weightlifting athlete at the National Games, delivering a stunning victory with a 320-kilogram total in the women's 87-kilogram event, the same as her winning-record at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Li Wenwen

Li Wenwen Photo: VCG

After winning gold again, Li made a heart gesture to her supporters like she usually does. "I only do this when I win gold," said the 21-year-old. "I won't do it without a gold medal."

Stable and dominant on the field, Li likes to dress up, cook and play video games in her daily life. With millions of followers on livestreaming and video platforms, Li likes to share her training and life online, showing her personality and a positive attitude.

Some other post-2000s athletes have also emerged as title contenders in the weightlifting arena. In the women's 49-kilogram category, Wang Jiali, 19, from Hunan Province, beat other elite athletes to win a bronze medal, finishing behind Olympic gold medalist Hou Zhihui and world champion Jiang Huihua.


Gen Z athletes Yang and Zhang Changhong have already shown their talents at the Tokyo Olympics by winning gold medals. The ­National Games shooting range, however, has witnessed the rise of some promising new faces.

In the women's 10-meter air pistol final, Shen Yiyao of Shanghai, who finished sixth in qualifying, led from the fifth round to beat Olympic gold medalist Jiang Ranxin with 241.9 points, winning gold at her Nationals Games debut.

"I started shooting in the fifth grade of elementary school," said the 17-year-old. "My parents thought I was too naughty and wanted me to be quiet, so they sent me to practice shooting because they heard that shooting can make people calm down."

Another 17-year-old, Wang Zhilin upset Olympic gold medalist Yang in the women's 10-meter air rifle to take gold with 253.3 points, surpassing Yang's record-breaking 251.8 points in Tokyo.

Du Li, head coach of the national team and two-time Olympic gold medalist, said that China's talent in shooting is "exciting."


As the youngest athlete of the Chinese delegation to the Tokyo Olympics, 14-year-old Quan Hong­chan pocketed gold again in the women's 10-meter platform with her perfect performance, along with a gold medal in the women's team event with Guangdong.

Quan Hongchan Photo: VCG

Quan Hongchan Photo: VCG

Besides Quan, 16-year-old Chen Yuxi and 17-year-old Zhang Jiaqi are also gold contenders in the event. The Olympic gold-winning pair extended their perfect record in the women's synchronized 10-meter platform at the National Games.

In the men's events, 14-year-old twins Bai Yuming and Bai Yuhao stunned in the pool as they first claimed gold in the youth synchronized 10-meter platform, gold and silver respectively in the individual 10-meter platform and later took bronze in the men's synchronized 10-meter platform which featured several Olympic gold medalists and world champions.


In the badminton women's singles, Gen Z athletes have made a strong showing. Wang Zhiyi put great pressure on Olympic gold medalist Chen Yufei in the semifinals, in which they performed an 80-shot rally.

Wang managed to win one gold and one bronze at her second ­National Games, becoming a reliable player in the team event. As the No.3 seed in China's women's singles during the Tokyo Olympic cycle, Wang will surely become a key force for the Paris Olympics.

Despite losing to Wang in the bronze-medal event, 18-year-old Tan Ning put on a good show in both the singles and doubles. With strong offense and jumping ability, Tan was able to form a strong pair with Huang Dongping in the women's doubles.


Turning professional for only the second year, Renqingdongzhibu took gold in the men's marathon at the National Games with a time of 2:14:26, five seconds ahead of Peng Jianhua, who was the national champion in 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

Renqingdongzhibu came from Qinghai Province. Born in 2000, he used to be a cowherd, running on the prairie with his cows and sheep.

Renqingdongzhibu Photo: VCG

Renqingdongzhibu Photo: VCG

When he turned 16, he entered a sports school and started getting involved in running. He made it to the provincial team in 2018 and started to train as a professional athlete.

In 2020, Renqingdongzhibu started to compete in marathon and finished sixth in the Xuzhou Marathon in April 2021, in which Peng was the champion.

Only five months after the defeat, the 20-year-old came back stronger at the National Games and beat the champion who used to be way ahead.

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