2012 proved to be an exciting year for sports in the Asia-Pacific as well as globally. Here’s is my top ten favorites from the year:
China is becoming a powerhouse in the pool. Ye Shiwen, 16, smashed the 400m women’s medley world record. The world was shocked at just how fast she was, leading some in the American team to cast doubt on the validity of her achievements, though she was declared clean by the organizers. Ye was unconcerned. "It is a big evening for Chinese swimming,” she beamed. Chinese-national Sun Yang also took gold, winning the men’s 400m freestyle.
The Olympics had not officially opened before there was a major diplomatic incident. Before North Korea’s opening game in women’s football against Colombia, the organizers displayed the South Korean flag next to names of the DPRK players. The team stormed off and only after some persuasion, returned to the match and later won. Fortunately for London, the next few weeks went very well indeed but for a time, the 2012 Olympics looked to be on shaky ground.
There are not many feel-good stories coming out of Afghanistan but there was something to write about when it came to domestic football. A new league was set-up featuring a team from each region. The players were all found by a reality television show and for the first time, the country had a professional league, albeit an unusual one. The league had a successful first year that culminated in a sold-out championship in Kabul.
It came late in the year but it was a serious blow for Indian sport. Due to elections held by the India Olympic Association that were not recognized by the IOC, the international body suspended India. What happens next is anybody’s guess. Some think it is the wake-up call India needs, others think that it will achieve little. 2013 will provide most of the answers.
Some of the biggest names in the world of football arrived in China over the past 12 months to put the Chinese Super League on the global football map. It didn’t always go smoothly, with the high-profile big spender Shanghai Shenhua lurching from one crisis to the next.
Some are well-known, others less so but disputed islands made sporting headlines too in 2012. There was the furor over the banner held by South Korean midfielder Park Jung-woo after his team defeated Japan 2-0 to win the football bronze medal at the Olympics. The tensions between Japan and China also had their sporting consequences.
Eight badminton players – four from South Korea and two each from Indonesia and China – were sent home after intentionally trying to lose games at the Olympics. They wanted to avoid a tricky quarter-finals in an attempt to maximize their nation’s chances of securing a gold medal. The fans in London jeered at the missed shots and the players were expelled from the games.
It is good to be able to write about football and focus on pleasing performances and good results. South Korea and Japan have been at the forefront of much of the progress that Asian football has made over the years and the two rivals were at it again this summer. Both teams deservedly beat highly-rated opponents and impressed everyone with the overall quality of their play. They met in the bronze medal match with Korea emerging triumphant.
What a year Manny Pacquiao had and to be honest, it may be one that he prefers to forget. He ended 2011 with a controversial win over Juan Manuel Marquez but that had nothing on his shocking defeat at the hands of Timothy Bradley in June. An entire nation, as well as most of the boxing world, was united in shock. There was no debate about what happened in December. The Filipino was floored by a mighty right hand from Marquez. What comes next is a big question.
It had to be. The events of last February have yet to die down. A Harvard graduate of Taiwanese background burst onto the scene like nobody before him, becoming an instant sensation in the United States and Asia. Jeremy Lin had three weeks last winter that can only be described as insane. He spent the summer fighting off crowds in Taiwan before being snapped up by the Houston Rockets. A story that transcended borders and language and nobody knows how it will end.