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Victories and vigilance for China's sports 2020

China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-02 10:36
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With a safety-first approach amid the pandemic, Chinese sports gave fans plenty to cheer last year. Here's a look back at the top-10 domestic sports stories of 2020.

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Winter warmer

Beijing's preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics stayed on track despite the pandemic's sizable challenges. In December, all 12 competition venues were officially declared ready for operation. The Games' organizing committee also moved swiftly to replace test events that were canceled due to the pandemic with an adapted program that will trial venues early next year.

Golden-girl Gu

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Chinese freestyle skier Gu Ailing enjoyed a stunning Winter Youth Olympics debut by winning two gold medals (halfpipe, big air) and one silver (slopestyle) in Lausanne, Switzerland in January. The US-born teenager, whose mother is Chinese, has committed to representing China at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after completing a naturalization process in June 2019.

Zhang back with a bang

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Chinese mixed martial artist Zhang Weili retained her Ultimate Fighting Championship strawweight belt after beating Polish challenger Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split-decision in Las Vegas in March. The triumph delivered a timely morale boost to the Chinese public as the nation battled the coronavirus. Zhang's victory over Jedrzejczyk won Fight of the Year at Fighter's Only magazine's 2020 World MMA Awards.

Leagues ahead

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With the pandemic decimating the global sports calendar, the Chinese Basketball Association resumed its 2019-20 season in bio-secure bubbles in June to become one of the first professional leagues in the world to get the action going amid the crisis. The country's top-flight soccer competition, the Chinese Super League, followed the CBA by kicking off its delayed 2020 season in July, adopting similarly stringent anti-coronavirus protocols.

Sensible soccer

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The Chinese Football Association in December slashed salary caps in its top-flight division to usher in a new era of more-prudent spending for the domestic game. From next season, Chinese players will be subject to a 5 million yuan ($765,000) annual cap, with foreign players' wages limited to 3 million euros ($3.3 million) a year before tax. Each club's annual expenditure on imported players should not exceed 10 million euros. The CFA hopes the move will encourage clubs to focus more on developing homegrown talents.

Back to school

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The General Administration of Sports of China and the Ministry of Education in September released new guidelines on jointly promoting students' sports participation. The document outlines 37 measures designed to streamline the organization of school sports competitions, build high-level sports teams in colleges, and improve the training of PE teachers. A system to entice former professional athletes and coaches to work as PE teachers will also be rolled out.

E-sports levels up

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The Olympic Council of Asia in December officially added e-sports to its medal program for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, earning gaming more recognition from the traditional sports community as it continues to target Olympic inclusion. It remains unclear which e-sports titles will be included for Hangzhou 2022 but the selection is expected to follow the principles of no violence, prioritizing sports-themed games and guaranteeing fairness.

Serving up a treat

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The smooth organization of back-to-back International Table Tennis Federation World Cup legs and the ITTF Finals in bio-secure bubbles in Weihai, Shandong province and Zhengzhou, Henan province, respectively in November served up the sport's long-awaited return after an eight-month hiatus due to the pandemic. The restart also saw table tennis become the first Olympic sport to stage international events since the start of the outbreak in January, and the first in China to welcome overseas athletes amid the pandemic.

Bye-bye, Bayi

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The People's Liberation Army in October withdrew its Bayi Rockets team from the Chinese Basketball Association league, with the Bayi Kylin following suit in the CBA's top-flight women's division. The move was part of the PLA's attempts to restructure its entire sports training program in favor of combat-focused events. The decision ended a glorious era for the army program, during which the Rockets won eight CBA titles and the Kylin claimed five WCBA trophies since 1995.

Sun's glimmer of hope

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Chinese swimmer Sun Yang had his eight-year ban for a doping violation from the Court of Arbitration for Sport set aside by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court on Dec 23, rekindling hopes that he could compete at the Tokyo Olympics. The ruling upheld Sun's appeal against the suspension issued in February by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which found that Sun had refused to cooperate during a random test in September 2018. The case will now return to the CAS for a second trial, with Sun eligible to compete in the meantime.

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