China's 5 Biggest Sports Winners in 2019

By That's, December 2, 2019

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The good, the bad and the ugly. The weird and the wacky. As is the That’s tradition, we’ve compiled our 2019 China Year in Review series. So sit back, relax and relive the highs and lows of the last 12 months.


1. Elkeson

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Brazilian-born striker Elkeson, known in China as Ai Kesen, became the first player of non-Chinese heritage to play for the Chinese national team. The Guangzhou Evergrande striker scored twice on his debut in a 5-0 win over the Maldives in a World Cup qualifier, just a month after becoming a Chinese citizen (you can watch those goals right here). Elkeson was the second naturalized citizen to play for the national team, after Beijing Guo’an’s half-British, half-Chinese Nico Yennaris, now known as Li Ke. The pair are believed to be the vanguard of a new generation of naturalized talent in the Chinese national team, with Brazilians Ricardo Goulart, Alan and Fernandinho all expected to follow suit.

2. Jeremy Lin

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Linsanity has hit China, with former NBA superstar Jeremy Lin having joined the Beijing Ducks. And he was dubbed “the face of the Chinese Basketball Association” before he had even scored a point. Lin has been considering feeling the Asia love for some time now, stating in the summer, “About five years ago, I began to consider whether I should play basketball in Asia, because every year when I visit the region, I see so many fans.” So can Lin inspire the team named after the juiciest meat in all the land to the CBA title? He scored 25 points as he led the Ducks to victory in his first CBA game… we say watch this space.

3. Zhang Weili

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Forty-two seconds was all it took Hebei-born Zhang Weili to make history, dethroning strawweight champion Jessica Andrade and becoming China’s first UFC champion (watch the moment she wins the fight right here). After losing her first official MMA fight, Zhang’s victory over Andrade was her 20th consecutive win. The newly crowned champ took to Weibo, saying “I did it. The belt is in China. Thank you everyone for all the support. I love you all.” We love you too, Zhang!

4. Wu Lei

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Chinese international Wu Lei made the move from Shanghai SIPG to Espanyol at the beginning of the year. And the 27-year-old made his mark, scoring a dramatic goal in the last game of the 2018/19 season that sealed in the Barcelona team’s place in the Europa League, and secured them European football for the first time in over a decade (you can watch that goal right here). Wu then made history by becoming the first Chinese national to score in the main stages of European competition, as he scored in Espanyol’s 2-0 away win against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League (and you can watch that goal right here). Jia you!

5. Guangdong Southern Tigers

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After finishing the regular season with a league-best 42-4 record, the Guangdong Southern Tigers annihilated their competition in the playoffs without losing a single game. First up for the Dongguan-based team was a quarterfinals matchup against the Jiangsu Dragons who were dispatched 3-0 in a five-game series with a point differential of over 30 points on average. In the semifinals, the Tigers faced provincial rivals Shenzhen Leopards, who also proved to be no match: 4-0. After advancing to the CBA finals for their 14th appearance, the Southern Tigers were more than capable of handling the Xinjiang Flying Dragons, winning the first three games by 10 or more points. The team completed their third playoff sweep after winning game four 103-98 for their 9th CBA Title.


For more 2019 Year in Review coverage, click here.

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