Hot Sports of Guangzhou Asian Games 2010
Choosing the five representative sports disciplines for this introduction was not easy. Or rather, deselecting the many sports disciplines that would not be covered in this introduction was a difficult set of dicisions to arrive at. Our motivation for choosing the disciplines highlighted below is partly due to the fact that some of the disciplines chosen simply seemed to belong to world-class Asian sports (such as table tennis and taekwando) or were disciplines that Asian sportsmen and -women, who are generally smaller in stature than their European and North American counterparts, often excel in (such as gymnastics), or were disciplines that bridge the East-West divide in one way or another (rowing and cricket).
We could also have chosen football, since its popularity is growing in Asia, but there is nothing terribly exotic about football (though we note that short footballers are often the best dribblers, yet one or two tall footballers are handy to have around when heading corners). Similarly, we might have chosen badminton, rugby, sailing, swimming or tennis for a number of obvious reasons, or we might have chosen one of the new disciplines such as dragon boat racing, kabaddi, sepak takraw [see Wikipedia for their respective definitions], or one of the other martial arts such as judo, wushu or karate – or maybe even wrestling, for that matter, though wrestling seems to martial arts what slug-it-out, Sonny Liston style boxing was to the elegantly effective boxing style of Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali. We might also have mentioned golf, since several Asian golfers rank among the best in the world, but there is nothing terribly exotic about golf either (though we do give directions to the golfing venue, as we do for the other sports disciplines, including the ones not specifically covered here – see below).
The original plan was to write up six representative sports disciplines, but since the mascot of the city of Guangzhou, where this competition is officially being held (the neighboring cities of Foshan, Dongguan and Shanwei will serve as supplementary venues for some of the individual sports arrangements), consists in fact of five member parts (one daddy and four baby rams), it seemed more appropriate to limit ourselves to only five representative sports disciplines; in China, numbers often take on a special significance involving luck, good or ill, so it would have been ill-advised for us to risk jinxing the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games from the outset by ignoring the impact of a number on luck.
There are three main branches in gymnastics – Artistic, Rhythmic, and Trampolining & Tumbling. It is the Artistic Gymnastics branch that seems best to define gymnastics, though both Rhythmic Gymnastics and Trampolining & Tumbling have their ardent fans, of course. The following is a brief description of the three principal branches of gymnastics, together with a short and inexhaustive listing of some of the key gymnasts, principally those from the Artistic Gymnastics branch.
Artistic Gymnastics is a sub-discipline of gymnastics that involves the performance of short, tightly-choreographed routines, some with and others without the aid of an apparatus (a springboard, a pommel horse, a vaulting horse, a beam, a set of parallel bars, a set of rings, a mat, etc.). Routines that do not require the use of an apparatus are called floor exercises. A crucial element in the short gymnastics sequence is the ability to maintain precise balance at the close of the tightly-choreographed routine (called dismounting – and yes, at the beginning, the gymnast performs a mounting sequence, these terms having been borrowed from the equestrian world, since gymnastics was handed down to us by the ancient Greeks, who developed it as a set of exercises designed to facilitate the mounting and dismounting of horses), a matter that is oftentimes the bane of even the best gymnast.
China's Women's Artistic Gymnasts (WAG) and the corresponding men's group, the MAG, are among the best in Asia, and in fact, in the world, as the Chinese Olympic WAG medalist, Li Xiaoshuang (1996), and the Chinese Olympic MAG medalist, Yang Wei (2008), have demonstrated. The current Chinese WAG team is certainly one to watch at the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games, and includes He Kexin, Deng Linlin, Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan. One of the most well-known Chinese WAG gymnasts (and captain) of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Team, Cheng Fei, is still recovering from a knee injury and can therefore not participate in the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games, though she expects to be mended and up to speed by the time of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
China's MAG competitors include Chen Yibing, Li Xiaopeng, Xiao Qin and Zou Kai.
Other countries' WAG gymnasts include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for North Korea – Cha Yong Hwa, Hong Su Jong, Hong Un Jong (the younger sister of Hong Su Jong) and Kang Yun Mi; for Singapore – Nur Atikah Nabilah; and for South Korea – Jo Hyun Joo.
Other countries' MAG gymnasts include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Japan – Ko-hei Uchimura and Naoya Tsukahara; for South Korea – Kim Dae-Eun, Kim Ji-Hoon, Kim Seung-Il, Kim Soo-Myun and Yoo Won-Chul; for North Korea – Pae Gil-Su and Ri Se Gwang; for Kazakstan – Yernar Yerimbetov; for Uzbekistan – Anton Viktorovich Fokin.
Rhythmic gymnastics is a sub-discipline to gymnastics that involves the manipulation of hand-held props such as ropes, ribbons, hoops, batons, etc., to the accompaniment of music and ballet-like and/or other rhythmic dance moves. Each participant manipulates a single prop during a rhythmic gymnastic performance, unless the gymnast is part of a team of multiple performers, in which case the participant may make use of two different props. The dance routines themselves may involve leaps, pirouettes, complex bends and turns, etc. The level of difficulty of the rhythmic gymnast's chosen routine and the grace with which the gymnast performs it are the main criteria on which participants are judged. China's best female rhythmic gymnast is currently Sui Jianshuang. She won a silver medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and earlier won a gold medal at the 2002 Asian Games, while China's Li Hongyang, Yingtzu Lai (TPE), Liting Lee (TPE), Yichieh Wang (TPE), Ding Yidan, Xiao Yiming, Peilung Yu (TPE) and Liang Yuting, are all eager rivals.
Other countries' Rhythmic Gymnasts include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Japan – Riko Anakubo, Yuka Endo, Chihana Hara, Mai Hidaka, Saori Inagaki, Mimi Inoue, Nachi Misawa, Yuria Onuki, Kotono Tanaka and Honami Tsuboi; for Kazakhstan – Anna Alyabyeva, Marina Petrakova and Aliya Yussupova; for Uzbekistan – Djamila Rahmatova, Ulyana Trofimova and Kamila Tukhtaeva; for Malaysia – Elaine Koon, Hidayah Abdul Wahid Nur and Haniza Wan Izahar Wan Siti; for India – Mitali Dogra, Sadichchha Kulkarni, Akshata Shete and Pooja Surve.
Trampolining (and Tumbling)
While trampolining is more or less self-explanatory (the athlete performs flips (aerial sommersaults) and twists in various combinations, which yield points depending, naturally, on the degree of difficulty of the chosen sequence and the poise with which the athlete performs them), tumbling requires some explanation. It involves flips and twists as with trampolining, but is performed on a very low, ramp-like, one-meter-wide track of 10-15 centimeters height which consists of two plastic "planks" spaced roughly one meter apart, and with elasticized cross slats connecting them (in order to provide bounce) over which a thick mat is stretched. The track is well cushioned on the edges (atop the "planks") in order to prevent mishaps, should the athlete accidentally land improperly.
China's Women's Trampolining Gymnasts include He Wenna, Huang Shanshan, Li Dan and Zhong Xingping, while China's Men's Trampolining Gymnasts include Dong Dong, Lu Chunlong, Tu Xiao, Ye Shuai, Yang Song (Tumbling) and Que Zhicheng.
Other Countries' Women's Trampolining Gymnasts include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Uzbekistan – Anna Savkina and Ekaterina Khilko; for Japan – Ito Masaki, Nagasaki Shunsuke, Sotomura Tetsuya and Ueyama Yasuhiro.
Taekwondo (tae is "to strike/ break with the foot", kwon is "to strike/ break with the fist" while do means "method" or "art", hence, tae-kwon-do can roughly be translated as "a method of kicking and punching") is the most practiced form of the martial arts in the world. This is surely because taekwondo lends itself to the particular need of the various practitioners, from self defense to sheer exercise to a hands-on (and a "feet-on") sport to a form of meditation and even to a philosophy, or a way of life, somewhat akin to the samurai tradition of Japan. The two most common expressions of taekwondo are sparring techniques (the execution of complex kicking and punching routines – either defensively, offensively or an ad-hoc combination thereof to suit the particular circumstances – for points) and breaking techniques (breaking stacks of bricks, planks, etc.).
There are two main divisions that have developed in taekwondo: the original use of the discipline, which was a military application for the South Korean Army (i.e., combat techniques) where the opponent didn't necessarily know how to defend him-/ herself from such attacks (preferrably knew nothing about it at all); and a sports application involving two opponents who are both adept at offensive as well as defensive techniques of taekwondo. Another important distinction is that taekwondo as a sport is to taekwondo the combat technique as American touch football is to the real thing: no one gets hurt (proponents of taekwondo would probably prefer to liken their sport to a game of chess rather than to a game of American football!). The latter branch of taekwondo is of course the international taekwondo discipline that has finally become a fixture in practically every major mulit-discipline sporting event the world over.
China's national level Taekwondo male competitors include Liu Xiaobo and Zhu Guo, while the corresponding female competitors include Chen Zhong and Wu Jingyu.
Other Countries' olympic level Taekondo competitors include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Afghanistan – Nisar Ahmad Bahawe, Rohullah Nekpah and Habib Nekpah (little brother to Rohullah),
Aka ping pong, table tennis (TT) is one of the sports disciplines in which Asians tend to excel, even though the sport originated in England in the 1880s. Otherwise, TT needs little introduction. As with its big brother, tennis, TT is most exciting when the players engage in a lengthy sequence of back-and-forth shots and counter-shots (hence the onomatopoeic nickname, "ping pong") that keep the ball in motion for extended periods. Such sequences are even more exciting when the "ping" and the pong" come from an obtuse angle, involve a tricky spin, or are "dead dropped" just over the net, a delivery that is almost impossible to counter during a rapid-fire exchange of shots where the opponent has been forced to stand at a distance from the table (at the baseline, as it were, to borrow an anology from tennis) in order to counter most threats.
China's national leve male TT players are Chen Qi, Cheung Yuk (HKG), Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE), Hao Shuai, Li Ching (HKG), Ma Lin, Ma Long, Tang Peng (HKG), Wang Hao, Wang Liqin, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike. China's national level female TT players are Cao Zhen, Ding Ning, Fan Ying, Feng Yalan, Guo Yan, Guo Yue, Huang Yi-Hua (TPE), Jiang Huajun (HKG), Li Xiaoxia, Liu Shiwen and Tie Yana (HKG).
Other Countries' national level male TT players include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Japan – Mizutani Jun, Yoshida Kaii and Kishikawa Seiya; for South Korea – Joo Se Hyuk, Lee Jung Woo, Oh Sang Eun and Ryu Seung Min; for North Korea – Jang Song Man, Kim Hyok Bong, and Ri Chol Guk; for Singapore – Gao Ning and Yang Zi; for Indonesia – Achanta Sharath Kamal.
Other Countries' national level female TT players include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Japan – Fukuhara Ai, Hirano Sayaka, Ishigaki Yuka and Ishikawa Kasumi; for Singapore – Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei, Yu Mengyu and Li Jiawei; for South Korea – Kim Kyung Ah, Park Mi Young, Dang Ye Seo and Seok Ha Jung; for North Korea – Kim Jong and Han Hye Song; for Thailand – Komwong Nanthana; for Malaysia – Beh Lee Wei.
Rowing is a sport that traverses most national boundaries, and is perhaps especially relevant to a group of countries that rim the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which much of Asia does. It is also a sport that encompasses a degree of built-in equality in the sense that the larger the rower, the greater the contribution to the mass that must be displaced in order to propel the boat forward. Also, any advantage that a long-armed rower may enjoy in terms of a longer stroke is forfeited in a correspondingly slower stroke. That is, the longer the stroke, the more time-consuming it is to accomplish. Moreover, there may in fact be a slight advantage in a rower having shorter arms, since the shorter stroke is likely to be less punishing on the muscles, producing less fatigue; it is the build-up of toxic wastes in the muscles, leading to muscle fatigue and eventually cramps, that is surely the greatest obstacle for a rower to overcome.
There are numerous categories of competition-level row boats such single sculls, double sculls and quad sculls, just as there are standard-weight boats and lightweight boats. In addition, generally depending on the size of the boat/ the number of rowers, the boats are rowed with or without the use of a cox (coxswain/ helmsman/ steersman), who, if present, may use a megaphone to chant to the rowers or s/he may beat a drum so as to provide a background rhythm as an aid in synchronizing the rowers' respective strokes.
China's national level male rowers include Chen Zheng, Cui Yonghui, He Yi, Huang Zhongming, Jing Ziwei, Liu Zhen, Qu Xiaoming, Su Hui, Tian Jun, Wang Jingfeng, Wang Xiangdang, Wu Chongkui, Zhang Liang, Zhang Shunyin, Zhang Yongqiang, Zheng Chuanqi and Zhou Yinan. China's national level female rowers include Yu Chengxi, Xu Dongxiang, Ka Man Lee (HKG), Yu Hua, Tian Liang, Li Qin, Cheng Ran, Yan Shimin, Mu Suli, Gao Yanhua, Wu You, Gao Yulan and Jin Ziwei.
Other Countries' national level male rowers include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Japan – Yuya Higashiyama, Hmamoto Hiroshi, Yu Kataoka, Hideki Omoto Kishimoto, Takehiro Kubo, Rokuroh Okumura, Sato Yoshinori, Takahiro Suda, Matsuda Syuya, Daisaku Takeda; for Iraq – Jaefar Ahmed Amira, Haeidr Nawzad Hamarasheid, Khalid Haqi Ismael, Hamzah Hussein Jebur, Ahmed Abdulsalam Khelaf, Majed Salih Abdul Raheem, Mohammed Hamid Rasheed and Ahmed Sattar Zaidan; for Kazakstan – Mikhail Garnik; for Uzbekistan – Vladimir Chernenko, Ruslan Naurzaliyev; for Indonesia – Agus Budi Aji, Thomas Hallatu, Iswandl Iswandi, Jamalludin Jamaluddin, M. Ali Darta Lakiki, Ketut Sukasna and Sumardl Sumardi; for India – Satish Joshi, Jenil Krishnan, Dharmesh Sangwan, Bijender Singh, Sukhjeet Singh, Bajranglal Takhar, Kiran Yalamanchi; for the Philippine Republic – Benjie Tolentino, Alvin Amposta and Roque Abala Jr.; for Thailand – Anupong Thainjam, Ruthanaphol Theppibal; and for Iran – Moshen Shado Naghadeh.
Other Countries' national level female rowers include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Japan – Iwamoto Akiko, Fukuchi Ai and Tamagawa Yuki; for South Korea – Mi Seon Eom, Eun Seon Im, Ok Kyung Kim, Soon Rye Kim, Su Hyoun Min and Yeong Eun Shin; for North Korea – Kum Sun Kang, Ok Bun Kim, Ryon Ok Kim and Sun Ok Yu; for Kazakstan – Inga Dudchenko and Mariya Filimonova; for Uzbekistan – Sevara Ganiyeva, Zarrina Ganiyeva (Sevara's younger sister) and Arina Kuznetsova; for Indonesia – Femmy Yuartini Elia, Pere Karoba and Sri Rahayu Masi; for Thailand – Phuttharaksa Nikree and Bussayamas Phaengkathok; for Iran – Homa Hosseini; for Sri Lanka – Chirath Karunanayake and Jehan Samarasekera.
For the average spectator, cricket is either something one has grown up with or which appears to be an odd diversion of sorts, perhaps part of the Martian legacy (first they built the pyramids, then they played cricket): one either understands it implicitly (it's in one's blood), or one finds it baffling. If, as a cricket spectator, you belong to the latter group, you can either choose to cheer and boo when everyone else does, pretending to be knowledgeable, or you can buy a book on the subject or go to an online source to find out about the sport – its mechanics are simply too complex, if not too complicated, to introduce here. For the peoples of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Subcontinent (the latter two groups being relevant in this context), cricket is a part of life – even the Taliban condoned cricket.
Since cricket is an integral part of the sporting tradition of the Commonwealth countries (Britain, plus the former British colonies), and since the sport is catching on in as unlikely places as America (they now play cricket in Central Park in NYC, thanks to the large number of Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Subcontinental immigrants in NYC), it can be seen as a "bridging" sport, therefore it is included here. For certain poor countries of Central Asia, cricket was once the only sport that was played, apart from the sporting traditions that Genghis Khan bequeathed them.
Luckily, sports disciplines of all stripes became a matter of national pride during the last quarter of the 20th century, thanks in no small part to the Olympic Games movement – and to the Asian Games tradition as well, which is part of the OG tradition – with the result that grand sporting tournaments became a vehicle for international detente, or the effort to defuse international geo-political tensions (alas, on a sadder note, it appears that India will not be able to participate in the cricket matches of the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games, ostensibly due to prior commitments, though that explanation has left everyone utterly baffled).
Not all of the participating cricket countries will field both a men's and a women's team. The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) has published a list of competing men's teams and competing women's teams. The list is as follows.
Men's Cricket Teams: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong (note that HKG, though a part of China, has a separate membership in the ICC/ACC), Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Women's Cricket Teams: Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore and Thailand.
China's national level male cricketers include Li Jian, Wang Lei, Jiang Shuyao and Zhang Yufei, while China's national level female cricketers include Mei Chun Hua, Wang Meng and Hu Tingting.
Other Countries' national level male cricketers include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Afghanistan – Mohammad Shahzad and Samiullah Shinwari; for Bangladesh – Aftab Ahmed, Mohammad Ashrafulm, Tamim Iqbal and Mashrafe Bin Mortaza; for Hong Kong – Najeeb Amar, Hussain Butt and Roy Lamsam; for Malaysia – Suhan Kumar, Faris Almas, Ahmad Faiz and Hassan Ghulam; for the Maldives – Moosa Kaleem, Ahmed Afzal and Abdulla Shahid; for Nepal – Paras Khadka, Sushan Poudel and Ritesh Singh; for Pakistan – Salman Butt, Sahid Afridi and Misbah Ul-Haq; for Singapore – Chaminda Ruwan, Mulewa Dharmichand, Sagar Kulkarni and Chetan Ramchandra Suryawanshi; and for Sri Lanka – Malinga Bandara, Janaka Gunaratne and Dilshan Munaweera.
Other Countries' national level female cricketers include (NB: This list is not intended to be comprehensive): for Bangladesh – Tajkia Akhter, Salma Khatun and Tithy Rani Sarkar; for Hong Kong – Keenu Gill, Neisha Pratt and Connie Wong; for Japan – Ema Kuribayashi, Ayako Nakayama and Mariko Yamamoto; for Nepal – Neera Rajopadhyay, Manisha Rawal and Nary Thapa; for Pakistan – Bisma Maroof, Sana Mir and Urooj Mumtaz; for Singapore – Priyanjali Jain, Annapurna Mukherjee and Lorraine Chua Bee Pheng; and for Thailand – Nantanit Khonchan, Thanapan Saisud and Sornnarin Tippoch.
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