Asian Games 2023 is set to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8 this year.
Here are the top 10 non-Indian athletes to watch out at the continental event:
Arshad Nadeem (Men’s Javelin Throw)
Arshad Nadeem is a 26-year-old javelin thrower from Pakistan. He made history by becoming the first athlete from Pakistan to qualify for a track and field event final during the Tokyo Olympics.
Nadeem won gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year with a 90.18m throw, which made him the first ever athlete from South Asia to breach the 90m mark.
This season, he grabbed his country’s first-ever medal at the World Championships in Budapest - a silver. Nadeem will look to better his performance from 2018 Asian Games where he could only manage to clinch a bronze.
Mutaz Barshim (Men’s High Jump)
Mutaz Essa Barshim is a 32-year-old high jumper from Doha, Qatar. He is a three-time world champion, two-time Asian Games gold medallist, the reigning Olympic champion and the second highest jumper of all-time with a personal best of 2.43m.
The 6’5” tall Barshim uses the Fosbury Flop technique. This season, he finished with a bronze medal at the World Championships in Budapest.
An Se-young (Badminton - Women’s Singles)
An Se-young is a 21-year-old badminton player from South Korea. She is the top-ranked player in the world and the reigning World Champion. Coming into the Asian Games, she is the most-in-form player in women’s singles.
This season, she has competed in 12 competitions and won nine of them while finishing as runner-up in the other three.
In Jakarta five years ago, An had lost in the opening round but this time, she is the favourite for the gold medal at the Asiad.
Qin Haiyang (Swimming)
Qin Haiyang is a 22-year-old Chinese swimmer. Five years ago, he could only win a bronze in the men’s 200m breaststroke event.
This time, he enters the continental event as the first man in history to win gold in all three breaststroke events at a single edition of the World Championships, setting new Asian records for each event as well as becoming the current world record holder for the 200m.
Ma Long (Table Tennis)
Ma Long is a 34-year-old Chinese table tennis player. He is regarded as one of the greatest table tennis players of all time and nicknamed ‘The Dragon.’
Ma has five gold medals at the Olympics, nine at World Cups, 13 at World Championships and six medals including five gold at Asian Games across categories.
Ma will be in action in the men’s team event in Hangzhou.
Du Linshu (Shooting)
Du Linshu is a 20-year-old shooter from China.
Du came into the limelight when he won five gold and two silver medals at the Junior World Championships in Cairo, Egypt, in 2022.
This season, he made his senior debut at the ISSF World Cup in Bhopal and grabbed a gold medal in the 50m Rifle 3 Positions event while taking silver in the 10m Air Rifle category.
Ding Liren (Chess)
Chess returns to the Asian Games after a gap of 13 years.
The Chinese team at the continental event will be led by Ding Liren. The 30-year-old Ding is the highest-rated Chinese chess player in history.
At the 2023 World Championships, he defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in the tiebreaks to become the first-ever male world champion from his country.
Mohammadreza Shadloui (Kabaddi)
Mohammadreza Shadloui is a 23-year-old Iranian Kabaddi player. An imperious left-corner defender, Shadloui won gold medal for Iran at the Junior World Kabaddi Championships in 2019.
He made his Pro Kabaddi League debut in 2022, scoring 89 tackle points to top the defenders’ tally. He followed that up with 84 points last season.
Shadloui could play a major role in Iran’s successful defense of its gold medal from five years ago in Jakarta.
Akari Fujinami (Wrestling)
Akari Fujinami is a 19-year-old freestyle wrestler from Japan.
Fujinami is a very dominant wrestler and has not lost a bout since a defeat at the National Junior High School Championships in 2017.
She won gold in the women’s 53 kg event at the 2021 World Championships held in Oslo, Norway. She also triumphed at the 2022 Asian Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
This season, she won the gold medal in the women’s 55 kg event at the 2023 Dan Kolov & Nikola Petrov Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Jiang Huihua (Weightlifting)
Jiang Huihua is a 25-year-old Chinese weightlifter who competes in the women’s 49kg category.
Jiang is a four-time world champion.
She obliterated Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Mirabai Chanu’s clean-and-jerk world record by lifting 120kg at the World Championships in Riyadh earlier this month. She also created a new world record for the total lift as she heaved 215kg, two kilograms better than the previous world mark (213kg) which was in her compatriot and reigning Olympic champion Hou Zhihui’s name.
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