China’s Asian Games champions underline friendship, solidarity amid international competitions
‘Winning or losing not everything in sports’
Published: Nov 23, 2023 08:52 PM
Photo: Lu Wenao/GT

Photo: Lu Wenao/GT

China's Olympic champions believe the universal language of sport is a key to bridge communications for athletes as well as people of different countries and regions, as they continue their preparations for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.

"Winning or losing is indeed the essence of competitive sports, but now I no longer think it's everything because we have something more valuable than victory," swimming queen Zhang Yufei told reporters at a forum held by the China Public Diplomacy Association in Beijing on November 22.

The essence of competitive sports goes beyond winning and losing, believed Zhang, who won six gold medals at the Hangzhou Asian Games. 

Zhang's touching moment with Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee at the Hangzhou Asian Games, where they embraced despite being rivals, became a memorable scene. 

"We participated in the same discipline but it was until the final day of 50 meters butterfly final that she made onto the podium," Zhang said. 

"Her ability to return to the competition is a miracle. It is her perseverance that inspired me to continue when facing a bad situation."

Zhang was referring a fever she caught on day four of her competitions at the Asian Games, when she had to continue to achieve her personal goal of becoming the MVP of the event, which required more gold medals at the time. 

"It is her perseverance she demonstrated after wading through leukemia which sidelined her from competing after achieving six gold and two silver medals at 2018 Asian Games," Zhang noted. 

Zhang's teammate Qin Haiyang, a breaststroke specialist who set a new 200 meters world record this year, noted that he hopes to inspire more people to participate in sports activities, expressing his desire to showcase not only athletic achievements but also the confidence, unity and friendship of Chinese athletes on the international stage.

The power of role models is limitless as gymnasts Zou Jingyuan and Zhang Boheng mentioned the influential figures in their sport, such as Li Ning, Li Xiaoshuang and Japan's Kohei Uchimura.

"Although we are competitors on the field, off the field, we are friends. Athletes worldwide share a common philosophy of developing modern gymnastics, innovating movements, and spreading the love for sports globally," Zou said.

All-rounder Zhang is often linked to Japanese gymnast Hashimoto Daiki, as the duo  are being considered the top athletes in the sport. This year they have competed head-to-head in China at the Chengdu Universiade and the Hangzhou Asian Games.

"Although this year I won, but I don't think he is at top form. I expect to compete with him when both of us are in-form. Maybe the stage will be the Olympics next year," Zhang said. 

"All the gymnasts in the world share a common philosophy, that is, to develop modern competitive gymnastics, constantly innovate movements, share our understanding of gymnastics, and our love for sports with the world," Zou added.

Off the field, interactions and friendships among athletes from different countries and regions highlight the Olympic spirit that unites the world, as two-time Olympic taekwondo champion Wu Jingyu, now chair of World Taekwondo Athletes Committee, underlines the communication among the athletes facilitate the Olympic spirit. 

"In addition to athletic achievements, athletes' perseverance and pursuit of dreams are also part of the Olympic spirit. This Olympic family allows athletes to freely show and express the spirit of sports, inspire more people with spiritual strength," Wu said.