Zheng Haixia becomes first Chinese player inducted into FIBA Hall of Fame

Society & Culture

Also: The Chinese Super League will return on April 20, but it will look significantly different than in years past.

Zhèng Hǎixiá 郑海霞 has become the first Chinese player to be inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. She received the news last Thursday.

Zheng had a distinguished career in which she starred for her country in four Olympics, four FIBA World Championships, eight Asian Games, and eight Asia Cups.

Her effort helped the Chinese women’s team earn a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics and a silver at Barcelona four years later. Zheng was also part of the Chinese team that won gold at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul.

At the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Australia, Zheng and her teammates made it all the way to the finals. Despite losing 96-87 to Brazil in the gold medal match, Zheng scored an eye-catching 27 points with 11 rebounds and was named the tournament’s MVP. During the event, the 6-foot-8 center was dubbed the “Great Wall of China” by Australian player Robyn Maher — whose husband Tom Maher, a former China women’s coach, will also enter the FIBA Hall of Fame in the 2021 class alongside Zheng.

In a 15-year career that stretched between 1983 to 1998, Zheng played most of her career in China. However, in 1997, Zheng entered the inaugural WNBA draft and was selected in the second round, 18th overall, to the Los Angeles Sparks. The Henan native played two seasons there before retiring at the 1998 season.

In October 2020, the Sparks’ Facebook account published a “Haixia Zheng appreciation post”:

Following retirement, Zheng returned to China to become a coach with the women’s army team, the same team that had scouted her when she was a 5-foot-10 13-year-old in Wuhan.

The Chinese Basketball Association on Friday sent a letter of congratulations to Zheng.


Chengdu World University Games postponed

The International University Sports Federation (FISU) has announced that the World University Games in Chengdu have been postponed until next year. In a statement on its website last Thursday, FISU cited the ongoing pandemic as the primary reason.

Many of the elite athletes expected to compete during Chengdu 2021 have been able to train, albeit with some interruptions, throughout the pandemic. Many, however, have not as university campuses and sports facilities have faced lengthy closures. Furthermore, the FISU Executive Committee felt the likely improvements in the public health situation over the next year would be such that an event in 2022 would be considerably more likely to offer the formative experience that FISU aims to deliver. This approach is fully aligned with FISU’s goal of positively shaping the leaders of the future through their experience of international university sport.

Since the pandemic, China has only hosted one international sports event — the ITTF #Restart series in ping pong at the end of 2020.

China has abandoned traditional Olympic venue testing procedures due to travel restrictions, opting to create an adapted program that includes only domestic athletes. It recently began a test program for Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium, which will host ice hockey. Last month, China tested the skiing venues at Zhangjiakou and Yanqing with the Chinese national team using a competition designed for the organizing committee. But questions still remain around the safety of the Genting ski resort, after a skier died in January.

China is scheduled to host international winter sports events at the end of this year.


New-look CSL restarts this month

The Chinese Super League (CSL), China’s top domestic soccer league, will return on April 20 under the same two-group format as last season. The two groups will be based in Guangzhou and Suzhou.

Despite the small number of COVID cases within China, the CSL decided to continue using bubbles to prevent the risk of infection from excessive air travel.

According to Xinhua, up to 1,500 spectators will be allowed inside Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou for the season’s opening match.

While the format remains the same, the CSL will return looking very different from last year.

The first significant difference has been a change to nearly every club name. Apart from historic Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua, every club has been forced by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) to remove references to sponsors or investors from their team names.

For instance, the league’s most successful team, Guangzhou Evergrande, will now be known as Guangzhou FC.

The second major difference will be the absence of current champions Jiangsu Suning.

The 2020 champions were denied a license for the upcoming season after the CFA’s sustainability rules compelled the team’s owner, Suning, to pull funding and liquidate the club. It will be the first time in Chinese soccer history that the league title will not be defended.

And finally, due to salary cap restrictions, there will be fewer big-name international players — though this is a change that may be more apparent in future seasons. As former Guangzhou R&F’s Dusko Tosic told Serbian news agency Tanjug, as reported by SCMP, “I am almost certain that there will be no big football names in Chinese football next year.”

While the upcoming fixtures have yet to be released, the groups have been announced. Guangzhou FC will be the only team in the league with home-field advantage, as the club’s Tianhe Stadium will host group A.

Group A will feature crosstown rivals Guangzhou City, as well as Shandong Taishan, Shenzhen FC, Chongqing Athletic, Henan Songshan Longmen, Qingdao FC, and Cangzhou Lion.

Group B in Suzhou will feature Beijing Guoan, Shanghai Port, Shanghai Shenhua, Hebei FC, Tianjin Tigers, Dalian Pro, Changchun Yatai, and Wuhan FC.


Other Stories:

Xi Jinping’s Chinese soccer dream is falling short (Axios)

Rising Canadian athlete switches citizenship, hoping to compete for China in Tokyo Olympics (National Post)

MLB and Tencent expand Chinese streaming deal to cover multiple Asian markets (Sports Pro Media)

Sun Yang handed Olympic lifeline (Swimming World)

Guangdong secures CBA regular season top place (Xinhua)

National Tennis Center to be upgraded for China Open (Xinhua)

Xinjiang’s Zhou joins legend Yao with monster CBA stats (Xinhua)

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.