10 of Shanghai's best sporting superstars

10 of Shanghai's best sporting superstars

Yao Ming and Liu Xiang might be the best-known, but they are far from the only Shanghai natives to excel in sports

When someone says “Shanghai sports," the first names on almost anyone's lips are the city's two precious "sons": Yao Ming and Liu Xiang. However, in the city's hundred-plus years of sport history, there are many names that deserve attention.

As the 16th Asian Games kicks off in Guangzhou, we look at the 10 Shanghai athletes you should know besides Yao Ming and Liu Xiang.

Li Furong  - Shanghai athlete

1. Li Furong

Born in Shanghai in 1942, table tennis player Li Furong is as well known for being handsome as well as a tough competitor, earning him the nickname that literally translates to "The handsome man plus bomber."

He is one of the most well known table tennis players in Chinese history.

Since 1961, Li Furong played five times on behalf of the Chinese table tennis team in the World Table Tennis Championships. He was runner-up three times at men's singles and also won third place in the men's doubles together with partners Zhuang Zedong and Wang Jiasheng. 

At the 28th World Tab;e Tennis Championships, held in the former Yugoslavia in 1965, Li truly broke onto the international stage with a win there, the international press calling him “an idol with real talent.” 

Li Furong was also one of the main players at the Sino-U.S. table tennis diplomacy event in 1971.


Li Huitang  - Shanghai athlete

2. Li Huitang

Before 1949, almost every football fan in Shanghai knew the name Li Huitang. A popular catchphrase at the time was: "Mei Lanfang for opera and Li Huitang for football."

Known as the "East Asian Number One," during his 12-year career Li represented China in the Far East Games four times and won the championship each time.

Li was born in Hong Kong and later moved to Shanghai. His time in Shanghai was the peak of his career, giving him the popular title “Football king of a generation."

Leading the Chinese football team in their first win against a foreign league championship team, Li's success with the team generated waves of support for Shanghai football.

“Li Huitang, is a great contributor to Chinese football,” wrote a pre-1949 well-known publication, "a messenger that connects Shanghai and Hong Kong football. He is one of the greatest Shanghai and Chinese footballers in history.” 


Zhu Jianhua  - Shanghai athlete

3. Zhu Jianhua

Any older Shanghai native will still remember Shanghai's Zhu Jianhua, the Liu Xiang of track and field in the 1980s. The only difference is, he was a high jumper.

Zhu broke the world high jump record three times in two years.

In 1983, he jumped over 2.37 meters at the Fifth National Games in the preliminary round, setting a new world record. He would go on to reach 2.39 meters in 1984.

Zhu's world record stood until 1985 when Rudolf Povarnitsyn beat it by one centimeter.



Zhuang Yong - Shanghai athlete

4. Zhuang Yong

One of the Chinese national swim team's five “golden flowers” and Olympic swimming champion, Zhuang Yong was born in Shanghai.

Zhuang started swimming when she was in kindergarten. Although her parents didn't know much about sports, according to Zhuang, her "water-addicted” aunt used to force her to swim every summer. Zhuang soon became more than comfortable in the water than out of it.

Zhuang won the 100-meter freestyle gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, China's first gold medal in swimming.

She also won the 100-meter freestyle gold medal at the 1990 Asia Games and the 1987 National Games. She also won silver medals in the 50 meter freestyle and 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay at the  Barcelona Olympic Games.

Now, Zhuang Yong runs her own advertising company, which is China's largest LED operator.

(Click "Next" to see more of Shanghai's greatest athletes)

Hu Ronghua - Shanghai athlete

5. Hu Ronghua

Shanghai's 65-year-old Hu Ronghua is a Chinese chess grandmaster. Having won 15 national individual champion titles, Hu is known in Chinese chess circles as “Commander Hu.”

When not winning national titles, Hu Ronghua practices by playing anywhere from eight to 14 people at the same time.

The chess player from Shanghai also claims five records in Chinese chess: he was the youngest national champion at age 15, the only player who has ever won the national Chinese chess title 10 times in a row, the oldest Chinese national champion at age 61 and the only player who has won a national champion title 15 times. 

Hu has been the name and face of Chinese chess for 50 years.


Sun Wen - Shanghai athlete

6. Sun Wen

Technically one of the best Chinese female soccer players, organized and accurate on the field, Sun Wen was the main striker of the Chinese national women's team from 1990 to 2003.

Sun has been playing for China in the World Women's Championship since 1991.

At her career peak during the World Cup held in the United States in 1999, Sun Wen and her team made it to the runner-up slot, a huge win for Chinese soccer.

Sun won the Golden Globe and Golden Boot awards that year, and was also named "Miss World Football," and called by the press "Maradona in a skirt.”

In the Chinese domestic league, Sun and her Shanghai team are considered invincible.


Wang Liqin - Shanghai athlete

7. Wang Liqin

Thirty-two-year-old Shanghai-born table tennis player Wang Liqin was the gold medalist in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games men's table tennis doubles as well as at the 2001 Osaka World Championships in singles and doubles.

In 2005, the 48th World Ping Pong Championships were held in Wang's native city. He took both the singles and doubles titles, beating Ma Lin in the singles and Liu Guozheng and Bai Yang in the mixed doubles with partner Guo Yue.

More impressively, Wang also maintained these titles two years later at the World Championships in 2007.

Wang and his teammates won the men's team gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

With an explosive right-hand cross grip, his powerful hits won him the nickname “Big strength” from his teammates.

For young sports fans in Shanghai, Wang is as important as Yao Ming and Liu Xiang in representing Shanghai's power.

At the Guangzhou Asian Games, Wang Liqin will once again play on behalf of China in the men's team table tennis competition.


Ye Chong - Shanghai athlete

8. Ye Chong

“Gentleman swordsman” Ye Chong was born in 1969.

After entering the Shanghai Hongkou fencing school in 1982, it only took Ye seven years before he became a member of the Chinese national fencing team. 

Ye, Wang Haibin of Jiangsu and Dong Zhaozhi of Guangdong are known together as China's “Three Musketeers," making strides for their team in the international fencing world.

The 2004 Athens Olympic Games was Ye Chong's last international competition before he retired.

Due to a number of unfavorable referee calls and one highly contested penalty, Ye and the "Three Musketeers" only won a silver medal in Athens, ending Ye's distinguished career with a bit of regret.

Ye said during an interview, “I tried, but the end is not the most important. I'm going to be a referee at the Beijing Olympics, I will be sure to be a fair Chinese referee.”

Currently, Ye is still active on the Shanghai Men's Fencing team. At the age of 41, he still is a tall and elegant fencer.


Zou Shiming - Shanghai athlete

9. Zou Shiming

Born in Guizhou, Zhou Shiming now lives and works full time in Shanghai.

Before joining the Chinese national team in 2000, Zou had already won 20 national championship in the 48 kg class. He changed Chinese boxing's history winning the country's first World Championships, and was the recipient of China's first Olympic medal in boxing.

At the 13th World Championship in 2005, Zou defeated both Athens Olympic champion Varela and Hungarian boxer Pál Bedák to win China its first World Championship.

After his triumphs at the Doha Asian Games and the World Championship in 2007, Zou won gold in the 48 kg division at the Beijing Olympics. It was China's first boxing Olympic gold medal.

As a boxer on both the Guizhou Province and Shanghai teams, Zou won the gold medal at the National Games in 2009.

Zou will be ready for his next 48 kg challenge at the Guangzhou Asian Games.


Liu Zige - Shanghai athlete

10. Liu Zige

Born in Benxi, Liaoning Province, Liu Zige was selected in first grade to attend the Benxi Sports School's swimming team school.

Showing great promise, in 2004, she was sent to Shanghai to train as a pro swimmer.

“Liu is a good kid. She often comes back to visit us here after she moved to Shanghai,” says Liu's coach Liu Qiuping from Liaoning. Coach Liu also says Liu Zige's shy, well-behaved and calm personality is beneficial for swimming. “She is able to perform well at crucial times.”

In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Liu won the women's 200-meter butterfly gold medal. She clocked a time of 2:04:72, breaking the world record.

 Liu won't participate in the 2010 Asian Games since she's in the middle of training for the Shanghai World Swimming Championships in 2011.