This has been quite an eventful year for Asia-Pacific sports. There were groundbreaking activities and controversies as well as an end of an era. We’ve covered a number of these watershed moments at The Diplomat throughout the year, so now, without further ado, here’s our list for the Top 10 Asia-Pacific Sports Events of 2013:
10. Rodman and Kim, BFF – In a bizarre twist, former NBA rebounding champ (and resident weirdo) Dennis Rodman somehow struck up a friendship with North Korea’s new dictator Kim Jong-un. Rodman, who was known for his outrageous wardrobe and behavior during his playing career in the 1980s and 1990s, has just visited Pyongyang for a third time, though he did not meet with Kim on this trip. Presumably, the young despot was a bit tied up after having recently disposed of his uncle.
9. (Most) Asian teams avoid groups of death – Three of the four Asian representatives drew favorable pairings in the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, with South Korea and Japan having a reasonable chance to advance out of group play. The same cannot be said, however, for Australia, which is slotted with the finalists from the last World Cup (Spain and the Netherlands), as well as rising power Chile.
8. Inbee Park’s near grand slam – South Korea’s 25-year-old superstar dominated women’s golf, winning the year’s first three (of five) majors and finished with six tournament victories as well as the world No. 1 ranking.
7. Sachin Tendulkar hangs it up – The 5-foot-5 Indian cricket god finally called it a career after obliterating many of the sport’s all-time records. Tendulkar, 40, played in his 200th international test match in November, coming just short of recording another century.
6. New Zealand’s historic collapse – Emirates Team New Zealand had the America’s Cup in its grasp, needing just one more victory in the best-of-17 series to reclaim the oldest trophy in sports. Instead, Oracle Team USA completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history by winning eight straight races on the San Francisco bay to retain the cup.
5. Vettel speeds past competition all over Asia – German wunderkind Sebastian Vettel is already on his way to auto racing immortality after having won his fourth straight Formula 1 title at the age of 26. Vettel won 13 of the season’s 19 races, including the last nine. He did much of his domination in Asia, winning seven of the eight races held on the continent, and placed third in the season-opening race in Australia.
4. Adam Scott’s Master-ful breakthrough – After Greg Norman’s heartbreaking close calls at Augusta National, Scott finally ended the Aussie drought by becoming the first player from Down Under to claim the coveted green jacket. Scott, who defeated Argentina’s Angel Cabrera in a playoff, finished the year with a flourish. He tied for third in the British Open and fifth in the U.S. PGA before nearly completing the Australian treble, winning the PGA and Masters before losing by one stroke at the Australian Open.
3. Tanaka headed to U.S. after flawless season – Masahiro Tanaka had a historic campaign in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, going 24-0 in the regular season and then leading his Rakuten Eagles to a thrilling Japan Series victory over the storied Yomiuri Giants, saving the deciding Game 7 to complete a magical season. The Eagles on Wednesday reluctantly decided to post their star pitcher, clearing the way for Tanaka to sign with the highest-bidding team from Major League Baseball. The 25-year-old right-hander will be the most sought-after free agent in this offseason.
2. Qatar’s World Cup debacle – Though the micro Gulf state is still nine years away from hosting the world’s premier sporting event, it has been consumed by controversy. Qatar’s treatment of its migrant workers came under scrutiny after The Guardian published a report over the summer. And FIFA is continuing to study the feasibility of hosting the 2022 tournament in the winter after international players protested the country’s inhospitable conditions in summer time, with temperatures typically reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Manny Pacquiao makes comeback in Macau – After losing his last bout in stunning fashion and going more than a year without a victory, the Filipino superstar redeemed himself with a solid win over Brandon Rios at The Venetian Macao. Pacquiao had been beset by distractions, including whether he should have even fought after his home country was ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Already a legislator in the Philippines parliament, Pacquiao now might set his sights on winning his island nation’s presidency sometime in the future.
Samuel Chi is the Editor of RealClearSports and RealClearWorld. His column on world sport appears every Thursday in The Diplomat.