Chinese sports year 12-29-2004 09:51

In this section, we broaden our view from Athens to recap some of the other memorable moments in Chinese sports, from the NBA China games to Formula One's Shanghai stop, from the inaugural China Tennis Open to the ISU Figure Skating Grand Final in Beijing.

Tennis Fever

Who can forget Li Ting and Sun Tiantian's dramatic victory at the Athens Olympic Games in August, when they won the women's doubles gold medal?

The first ever gold for the country in a major event almost wrapped up a remarkable year for Chinese tennis, which also saw several pairs making quarterfinals at Grand Slams and singles player Zheng Jie crossing the fourth-round hurdle in Roland Garros.

But China wasn't done yet. Li and Sun's win in Athens only increased fans' enthusiasm for a major event of their own.

Right after Athens, Beijing wooed some of the biggest names on the ATP and WTA tours, to join the local favorites for the inaugural China Open.

Though Beijing did host several ATP events in the 1990s, and even the Masters Cup has already landed in the other Chinese city of Shanghai, the China Open organizers never hid their ambition to put together their own version of a Grand Slam.

The newly built Beijing Tennis Center features a 10,000 seats center court and 15-smaller ones. Could it be some day deemed as China's Flushing Meadows, or the Queens Club?

Beijing may still have a long way to go, but she is indeed serious about such high-caliber events to demonstrate or, more precisely, practise its abilities in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.

Scintilating Speed

If Beijing intended to use tennis to attract attentions from the world sports community, Shanghai didn't have to bother to promote itself when the Formula One made up its mind to tap the China market.

Local media's interest and fans' fever in auto-racing have never been greater. Construction of the Shanghai circuit even stunned the world's most experienced teams and drivers.

Rubens Barrichello secured a victory at the China Grand Prix for Ferrari. And Michael Schumacher was still the biggest star among rowdy spectators simply by showing up in Shanghai, despite his poor finish.

The Formula One event, at least for a few days in late September, even boosted Shanghai's hotel rates to record highs.

Welcome Home

Hotel prices quickly experienced another hike in the city when Yao Ming's hometown played host to the first ever NBA pre-season game.

After two remarkable years with the Houston Rockets, and a impressive run into the quarterfinals at the Athens Olympics, the all-star center showed his American teammates around where he was born and raised before taking on the Sacramento Kings.

Of course, the Kings had their own card to play, giving local guard Liu Wei a chance to impress the coach in the two exhibition games, the second being held in Beijing.

Though Liu fell short of making his dream come true, the two highly commercial games did bring thousands of Chinese basketball fans to their feet. The NBA even promised to bring a regular season opener to China before 2008.

Also endorsement deals are fast rolling in for Yao whose charismatic personality, winning smile and offbeat sense of humor has made him one of the biggest road draws in the league. He now leads all other players in the NBA All-Star Game popularity vote.

Skating to Success

Yao Ming would quickly say good to his home supporter and return the very demanding NBA action. But Chinese fans still had a lot to cheer about. Even wintry weather didn't cool their passion when the world's finest figure skaters gathered in Beijing for the Grand Final of the ISU Grand Prix series.

Not a single athlete could compete for the biggest crowd cheering when it was against a Chinese pair.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo didn't let the fans down, entertaining them with triple axels and soin, and scoring an astonishing high scoring to win the title, of course, the only one for China among all four on offer.

Another Chinese pair Pang Qing and Tong Jian finished 3rd, and the men's singles event saw China's Li Chengjiang charging into the top three.

2004 has really been a year of sporting firsts for China. The golden-rush in Athens, the resounding roars in Shanghai, the fanfare for Yao Ming, the birdie-birdie on the green, and a convincing win over the world stars.

Editor:Chen Zhuo

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