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Asiad’s Elite Eight

HANGZHOU, Asian Games (AFP) — Some of the finest competitors on the planet will be in action at the Asian Games from Saturday until 8 October.

AFP Sports picks out eight athletes to watch in Hangzhou.


Mutaz Essa Barshim (High Jump, QAT)

High jumper Barshim is the reigning Olympic champion — he famously shared gold with Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi at the Tokyo Games — and is chasing a third Asian Games gold.

The Doha-born 32-year-old has also won every medal at the World Championships, three of them gold. Also holds the Asian high-jump record.


Neeraj Chopra (Javelin, IND)

The 25-year-old made history at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 when his victory in javelin made him the first Indian in history to win an athletics gold.

He followed that up with gold at the recent World Championships in Budapest and so became the undisputed master of men’s javelin. Also the reigning Asian Games champion.


Faker (eSports, KOR)

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is a legendary figure in eSports and widely acknowledged to be the best League of Legends player of all time.

Added to the incentive to win Games gold for him and his South Korean team-mates is the fact that doing so will also exempt them from having to do military service back home.


Rikako Ikee (Swimming, JPN)

Ikee became the first swimmer to win six golds at a single Asian Games at Jakarta 2018, but months later revealed that she had leukaemia.

Now 23, she overcame her illness to race for Japan’s relay team at her home Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and has also competed at world championships since her return.


Qin Haiyang (Swimming, CHN)

Qin announced himself as the new undisputed breaststroke king at the recent world championships, sweeping all three distances — 50m, 100m and 200m — and setting a new world record in the 200m.

The 24-year-old was competing in his first international event but he blew the competition away, setting new Asian records in each of his three races.


Zheng Qinwen (Tennis, CHN)

Fresh from reaching the quarter-finals of the US Open, the 20-year-old Zheng is now strongly fancied for Asian Games gold to add to her fast-growing global reputation.

At 22nd in the world, Zheng is the highest-ranked women’s tennis player in Hangzhou and won her maiden WTA Tour title this year. Named WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2022.


Yin Ruoning (golf, CHN)

The 20-year-old Yin earlier this month became only the second Chinese golfer in history, after Feng Shanshan, to reach number one in the world.

Yin will team up with trailblazer Feng in Hangzhou because the now-retired Feng, who topped the rankings from November 2017 to April 2018, is head coach of the Chinese team.


An Se-young (Badminton, KOR)

The 21-year-old has had a startling year, winning nine titles and rising to world number one for the first time. In August, she became world champion.

The competition at the Asian Games will be fierce, however, with deposed former world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan and a clutch of Chinese players all challenging.

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