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Next-gen rising

China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-18 09:02
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The most exciting young Chinese athletes chasing glory in Hangzhou

With the Paris 2024 Olympics around the corner, the Asian Games represent a massive opportunity for young athletes to make their mark on the international stage. Xinhua takes a look at some of the rising Team China stars hoping to wow the home fans in Hangzhou.

Zheng Qinwen (Tennis)

As one of the most exciting young stars on the WTA circuit, 20-year-old Zheng rallied past last year's runner-up Ons Jabeur at the US Open earlier this month to achieve her first win over a top-10 player at a Grand Slam. The victory earned Zheng her maiden appearance in a major quarterfinal, where she was stopped by world No 2 and eventual runner-up Aryna Sabalenka. In July, Zheng won her maiden WTA title at the Palermo Open in Italy. Now the player known to fans as "Queen Wen" will bid to add an Asian Games medal to her fast-growing list of career milestones.

Ke Jie (Go)

Go made its Asian Games debut as an official event at Guangzhou 2010, where China finished second in the sport's medal standings, with three silvers behind South Korea's three golds. Go returns for the Hangzhou Asiad after its absence at Incheon 2014 and Jakarta 2018. Ke became the youngest Chinese Go player to win eight world championship titles in 2020. A native of Zhejiang province, the 26-year-old will make his Asiad debut in both the team and individual events.

Liu Qingyi (Breaking)

Ahead of its Olympic debut in Paris next year, breaking, sometimes referred to as break dancing, is also set for a highly anticipated introduction at the Asian Games in Hangzhou. Liu, who pocketed silver at the 2022 WDSF World Breaking Championships last October, continued her fine form with a resounding victory at the Breaking for Gold World Series 2023, the sport's first Olympic points event this year. The 17-year-old prodigy will be aiming for gold in Hangzhou, as the winners of the men's and women's events will each earn a direct ticket to Paris 2024.

Zhang Boheng (Gymnastics)

As one of the best men's all-around gymnasts in the world, Zhang will renew his rivalry with Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto of Japan in Hangzhou. Zhang beat Hashimoto by 0.017 points to win the men's all-around title at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships just three months after Hashimoto topped the podium at the Tokyo Olympics. Zhang lost the rematch at the artistic gymnastics worlds a year later, but claimed gold at the Chengdu World University Games this August after Hashimoto was forced to retire due to injury. The duel between the 23-year-old Zhang and 22-year-old Hashimoto promises to be among the Hangzhou Games' most thrilling contests.

Huang Yuting (Shooting)

One of China's strongest Olympic sports, China has never lacked young gunners who can mix it with the best on the biggest stages, and Huang is surely one of them. She pocketed two gold and one silver medal in her international debut at the 2022 ISSF World Championships in Egypt, earning multiple Paris Olympic berths for China. The 17-year-old Zhejiang native is pursuing three gold medals in Hangzhou — the 10m air rifle women's individual, as well as the team and mixed team events.

Tian "Meiko" Ye (Esports)

For those unfamiliar with the esports scene, the name "Meiko" likely means nothing. But for fans of the game League of Legends (LoL), it is a moniker that elicits adoration. Meiko joined renowned Chinese club EDward Gaming (EDG) in 2015 as a reserve player but quickly became a first-choice starter. After winning the 2021 LoL World Championship in Iceland, Meiko completed a Grand Slam of victories, also including the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational and Spring and Summer Split titles in China's LoL Pro League with EDG. Meiko also triumphed in Jakarta 2018 when esports made its Asiad debut as a demonstration sport.

Yin Ruoning (Golf)

Yin became world No 1 in women's golf after finishing third at the LPGA Queen City Championship earlier this month, thus becoming only the second player from the Chinese mainland to top the rankings after Feng Shanshan. The 20-year-old, who turned pro in 2020, claimed her first LPGA victory at the Los Angeles Open this April, before winning her first major title at the Women's PGA Championship in New Jersey two months later. Yin, who claimed a team bronze in Jakarta, will be coached by Feng at the Hangzhou Games.

Shi Haoyu (Artistic Swimming)

As the Chinese artistic swimming team's first and only male athlete, Shi made his international debut at the age of 15 at the FINA Synchro World Series 2017 in China, where he claimed gold in the mixed duet free along with Sheng Shuwen. Despite going on to collect multiple World Cup and World Series titles, Shi had to wait until this year to top the podium at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, where he won the mixed duet free and team acrobatic titles. He also claimed a bronze in the mixed duet technical competition.

Wu Yanni (Athletics)

Initially capturing the public's attention with her photogenic looks and sparkling personality, Wu has backed up her celebrity appeal with her ability on the track. Having won the women's 100m hurdles title at the 2023 Chinese National Athletics Championships, she later claimed silver at the Chengdu World University Games with a personal best of 12.76 seconds to qualify for the Paris Olympics. Wu began preparations for the Hangzhou Asian Games early, a sign of how determined she is to impress in front of the home fans.

Liang Weikeng, Wang Chang (Badminton)

A little over a year after teaming up, the pair's world ranking has rocketed from No 424 to No 2. Their victory in the men's doubles final at the China Open earlier this month came 22 years after Chinese greats Zhang Jun and Zhang Wei claimed the same title at home. With a deep run in Hangzhou, Liang and Wang could top the world rankings as they are just 138 points shy of the current leaders — Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto of Indonesia.

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