The Hangzhou Asian Games which ended last Sunday was a tremendous success. Here are some moments of sporting spectacle which will be remembered by people all over the world for years to come.
Digital torchbearer lighting the cauldron
At the spectacular opening ceremony of the Asian Games on September 23, for the first time a digital torchbearer played a role in igniting the cauldron. Often referred to as China’s tech hub, Hangzhou emphasized the “Smart” theme of the Asian Games, involving millions in a digital torch relay.
During the opening ceremony, a digitally-animated figure, symbolizing these torchbearers, traversed the iconic Qiantang River, before lighting the wave-shaped cauldron alongside China’s Olympic swimming champion Wang Shun.
Tears for a rival
China’s swimming star Zhang Yufei had every reason to smile at the Hangzhou Asiad, after clinching six gold medals. But she shed tears after 23-year-old Rikako Ikee took the bronze medal in the Women’s 50m Butterfly.
Japan’s Ikee had dazzled the world by grabbing six gold medals at Jakarta 2018, before a devastating leukemia diagnosis threatened to put her promising career to an end. But she embarked on a courageous battle against the illness and made a triumphant return to the pool.
At the World Championships earlier this year, Zhang showed Ikee the words she wrote on her palm: “Be the best of yourself.” In Hangzhou, seeing her rival-friend once again demonstrate her capacity in the pool, a tearful Zhang ran over to embrace her with heartfelt congratulations.
Applause for legendary
athlete defying age
Discussing athletes who could be described as “legendary”, Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan is definitely one of them. The 48-year-old has won eight Asian Games medals, including two golds. As long ago as 1992, she represented the Unified Team of the former Soviet Union at the Olympics to grab the Women’s Team gold medal.
In 2002, when Chusovitina’s son was diagnosed with leukemia, she acquired German citizenship to compete at global events for a higher income and better medical treatment. Now that her son has recovered, Chusovitina is continuing her Gymnastics journey out of love for the sport.
Although she narrowly missed out on a medal in Hangzhou by a mere 0.15 points in the Women’s Vault, she was greeted by thunderous applause from spectators. She now has her sights on the 2024 Paris Olympics. “I love Gymnastics, and this profession brings me great joy,” she said. “I’m just doing what I love, so why should I stop?”
Sharing glory with late coach
“Did you see? I’ve done it,” China’s sprinter Ge Manqi murmured tearfully after claiming the Women’s 100m title at Hangzhou Asian Games. She dedicated the medal to her late coach Liu Zhaoxu.
Ge, 25, had been coached since she was 13 by Liu, whom she deemed as “half a father” and accompanied her through ups and downs. Liu died last November due to illness, but Ge still remembered her promise of winning the Asiad gold.
Another of Liu’s charges, Lin Yuwei, was crowned in the Women’s 100m Hurdles and also paid tribute to him after winning. The song played at the stadium following the competition, “Brightest star in the night sky”, could best describe how the pair felt: “Whenever I get lost in the darkness of night, you light for me the road ahead.”
Victory of a defeated team
As Afghanistan’s Rugby Sevens team took on their opponents in the Asiad arena, they appeared outmatched, watching the scoreboard soar to a daunting 52-0 in just 16 minutes. However, for the team, who finished 12th in the event, merely stepping onto the Asiad court was a victory in itself.
These players, while passionate about Rugby, held diverse professions, from construction workers to drivers, and were based in different countries. Without official sponsorship, they self-funded their trip to Hangzhou, arriving just five days before their matches.
“Afghanistan has been through a lot of hardship over the past 40-50 years,” said team captain Omar Slaimankhel. “Hopefully we can keep making [Afghan people] proud.”
Sprinters making history
On the evening of Sept. 30, Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium erupted in tumultuous applause and cheers, as Chinese sprinters Xie Zhenye and Ge Manqi romped to gold in the Men’s and Women’s 100m respectively.
These victories marked the first time ever in the Asian Games history that athletes from one country have won both Men’s and Women’s 100m titles.
From Lao Yi, winner of the Men’s 100m at Guangzhou 2010 and Su Bingtian, the Men’s 100m Asian record holder, to Xie and Ge, China’s progress in 100m Sprints is evident in recent years. “Our next goal is the Paris Olympics,” announced the ambitious Xie. -Xinhua