21 dead in Gansu ultramarathon due to extreme weather

Society & Culture

Also: Yan Xiaonan loses at UFC Fight Night 188.

Twenty-one people participating in an ultramarathon in Yellow River Stone Forest Park in Gansu province died on Saturday as the result of extreme weather, including freezing rain and high winds. Their rescue was complicated by a landslide.

The 100-kilometer race in Baiyin, a mountainous part of northwest Gansu, included 172 runners. Not long after the race began, conditions deteriorated. More than 700 rescue workers and army personnel were brought in to find the stranded participants.

Officials from the region confirmed the deaths yesterday, adding that a further eight were injured.

“At around noon, the high-altitude section of the race between 20 and 31 kilometers was suddenly affected by disastrous weather,” Zhang Xuchen, mayor of Baiyin, said. “In a short period of time, hailstones and ice rain suddenly fell in the local area, and there were strong winds. The temperature sharply dropped.”

By 2 p.m., the race had been canceled and rescue teams dispatched.

“The morning was breezy and sunny, and there was even a hint of warmth in front of the starting line,” a participant recounted to Global Times. However, within 90 minutes, conditions dramatically worsened. “The wind wrapped around the raindrops hitting my face like dense bullets, it really hurt. I couldn’t open my eyes in the strong wind.”

The tragedy sparked an online backlash against the organizers of the event and local officials. “This is totally a man-made calamity. Even if the weather is unexpected, where were the contingency plans?” one social media user wrote.

“Why didn’t the government read the weather forecast and do a risk assessment?”

In response to the event, the General Administration for Sport called an emergency meeting to address the rise in safety problems within sporting events.

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Yan Xiaonan loses at UFC Fight Night 188

Carla Esparza dominated Yán Xiǎonán 闫晓楠, derailing, for now, the Chinese fighter’s quest for UFC strawweight gold.

Yan, who has been tipped by many as China’s next big contender after Zhāng Wěilì 张伟丽, found herself outside her comfort zone against the American Esparza.

Yan came out swinging in the first round, but soon found herself on the ground after the American executed a double takedown with ease.

Yan struggled for the rest of the first round to take the fight back to her feet, with the former collegiate wrestler Esparza comfortably dominating on the floor. Esparza was able to knee and elbow Yan with ease, opening up a nasty cut across the forehead with a sharp elbow.

By the end of the round, Esparza had landed a record-breaking 108 strikes.

The second round started as the first round, with Esparza continuing her domination on the ground. With a minute remaining, referee Keith Peterson was forced to stop the fight after the American pinned Yan in a crucifix and landed a series of unanswered strikes to the already-bloody face of Yan.

The defeat is the first for the third-ranked Yan in the UFC, who had previously gone 6-0 before meeting Esparza on Saturday.

Following the fight, Esparza was quick to call out champion Rose Namajunas for the next title shot, and after such a dominant performance over another top-ranked fighter, there would be few arguments to deny her the shot.

If Esparza does move to take on Namajunas, former champion Zhang Weili — who lost her belt last month — may have to wait for her rematch for the strawweight title. However, the result does open up the possibility for a Yan vs. Zhang clash, something the Chinese MMA world has been anticipating since Zhang first won the title and Yan began her rise through the UFC ranks.

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Other Stories:

New England Patriots’ plane being used to give flight to China’s vaccine diplomacy (ESPN)

Wang Qiang misses out on first clay-court title (SCMP)

China facing ‘unprecedented threat’ in Olympic ping pong (CNA)

Sun Yang’s career on the line at appeal hearing (Reuters)

Lin ‘not retiring from basketball,’ deciding what’s next (SCMP)


The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.