Chinese Athletes and Sports Stars // How Many Do You Know?

Chinese Athletes | The Sports, the Stars, and the Events (Plus Free Flashcards!)

Have you ever wondered about which 运动 yùndòng (sports) are popular in China?

Here are just a few of the many types of sports that people in China enjoy, and some famous 运动员 yùndòngyuán (athletes) to go with them.

You’ll be amazed at all the achievements of these awesome Chinese athletes!

It’s time to step up to the plate, and learn about sports and athletes in China. Let’s be sure to hit the ground running!

Chinese Athletes | Soccer/Football

Chinese Athletes | Table Tennis

Chinese Athletes | Martial Arts

Chinese Athletes | Basketball

Chinese Athletes | Swimming

Chinese Athletes | China Youth National Games

Chinese Athletes | National Games of China (All China Games)

Chinese Athletes | Running, Yoga, and Dancing

Chinese Athletes | Sports Vocabulary

Chinese Athletes | Talking About Sports in Mandarin

Chinese Athletes | FAQ’s

We get the chalk and board out to bring all the sports to life (with audio)

Chinese Athletes // Soccer/Football

The Chinese Super League (CSL), founded in 2004, is a professional 足球 zúqiú (football/soccer) football league in China.

One current outstanding player in the league, for the Shenzhen club, is Gao Lin.

Also going by the nickname Gao Linsmann, he previously scored a total of 113 goals for Guangzhou Football Club, the highest in the history of the club. How impressive!

Chinese Athletes // Table Tennis

Another sport that is popular in China is the one and only…

乒乓球 pīngpāng qiú (table tennis).

China aren’t bad at it either!

Since 1952, the China national table tennis team has had a number of players inducted in the International Table Tennis Federation’s Hall of Fame.

Players who have been awarded this honour include Zhuang Zedong (1999), Li Ju (2005), Chen Qi (2010), and Liu Shiwen (2016).

Liu Shiwen is known for her incredible speed while playing table tennis.

After a period of recovery from an unfortunate shoulder injury in 2020, Liu Shiwen was able to start training again in 2021.

Born in 1991 in Liaoning, China, she has competed all over the world and played not only in cities throughout China, such as Chengdu, Nanjing, and Shenzhen, but also in Tokyo, Japan and in Korea, Qatar, Hungary, Thailand, and more.

FUN FACT | A table tennis match is shown towards the end of Peter Wang’s 1986 film, A Great Wall.

Check out Liu Shiwen in action

Chinese Athletes // Martial Arts

The term 武术 wǔshù (martial arts) was used in Chinese literature dating back from as early as the Liang Dynasty (502-557).

The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) encourages both traditional and more modern styles of the sport.

The World Wushu Championships (WWC) are held once every two years.

Wu Bin is a famous coach, who has worked with the Beijing Wushu Team.

Body Parts in Chinese 👤 From Head to Toe Thumbnail

Body Parts in Chinese 👤 From Head to Toe

Identifying and naming correctly the parts of the body in Mandarin can come in handy when seeing the doctor, playing sports, going clothes shopping, and more.

Chinese Athletes // Basketball

Who could forget about one of the most popular sports in China, 篮球 lánqiú (basketball)?!

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) was formed in 1995, and the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) was created in 2002.

Twins Zhang Yu and Zhang Wei of the WCBA have both played in a number of championships.

Yao Ming, originally from Shanghai, has been featured in a documentary titled The Year of the Yao.

This American film depicts Yao Ming’s first year playing basketball in the United States.

After playing for the Shanghai Sharks for several years, he then played with the Houston Rockets from 2002 to 2011 and became one of the most feared players in the whole NBA, as this video below shows!

Chinese Athletes // Swimming

游泳 yóuyǒng (swimming) is also very popular in China, with the Chinese Swimming Association (CSA) presiding over the sport.

The most decorated Chinese swimmer is Sun Yang.

Born in 1991, he holds 3 Olympic gold medals and 11 world championship titles.

Fun fact: Sun Yang is known as the “Underwater Meteor” by his fans!

Other famous Chinese swimmers include Zhang Lin, an Olympic silver medalist who holds the world record in the 800m freestyle, and Zhang Yufei, who won 2 gold medals and 2 silver medals in the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese Athletes // China National Youth Games

The China National Youth Games are hosted in China once every four years for athletes younger than twenty-one years old.

Besides basketball, table tennis, wushu, a variety of other sports are played during these quadrennial competitions.

These sports include 体操 tǐcāo (gymnastics), 网球 wǎngqiú (tennis), and 排球 páiqiú (volleyball). All are popular sports in China

Chinese Athletes // National Games of China (All China Games)

Many different kinds of sports are played at the National Games of China.

These include the likes of 射箭 shèjiàn (archery) and 骑行运动 qí xíng yùndòng (cycling), which were all included in the 14th games, which was held in Shaanxi in September of 2021.

Wang Shun, an extremely accomplished swimmer from Ningbo, Zhejiang, has the record for the highest number of medals earned in the All China Games, with a total of 15 medals!

BONUS: Want to learn how to book cheap flights and train travel to see the games? Check out our article about it!

Chinese Athletes // Leisure Sports

While professional sports can be entertaining to watch, plenty of people play sports just for fun.

跑步 pǎobù (running) is an example of a sport that can be both competitive and a way for individuals to stay physically active, without the goal of winning a medal or a trophy.

Want to get some exercise while also having some relaxation time? Try 瑜伽 yújiā (yoga)!

You can find videos in Chinese that teach you different yoga poses and routines. What a great way to improve listening skills!

Finally, another fun way to get in some physical activity is 跳舞 tiàowǔ (dancing).

There are numerous Chinese songs to dance (and also sing) along to.

It’s a fantastic method to gain both vocabulary and cultural knowledge. Plus, it can be fun!

So get the ball rolling, and incorporate exercise as one of your strategies in your Chinese language learning routine.

Chinese Athletes // More Sports Vocabulary

Just because we’re so good to you, here are some more flashcards for you to use.

You can download them, save them to your computer and use them to revise with

BONUS | Fancy testing yourself? We put together a little sports quiz for you, check it out and see how many you know.

Chinese Athletes // How to Talk About Sports in Mandarin

Now, at this stage in the game, let’s learn how to build some sentences in Chinese about sports.

你喜欢什么运动?Nǐ xǐhuān shénme yùndòng?What sports do you like?
我喜欢。。。Wǒ xǐhuān…I like…
打篮球dǎ lánqiúplaying basketball
踢足球tī zúqiúplaying football/soccer
练武术liàn wǔshùdoing martial arts
打乒乓球dǎ pīngpāng qiúplaying table tennis

But what if you like to watch games, in a stadium or at a field, or on TV?

Then you can say, for example:

我喜欢看篮球。Wǒ xǐhuān kàn lánqiú.I like to watch basketball.

Imagine you are talking to Yao Ming. You ask him:

你喜欢什么运动?Nǐ xǐhuān shénme yùndòng?Which sports do you like?

How do you think he would reply?

What about Gao Lin? What would his answer most likely be?

Do you know of any other athletes from China who have hit it out of the park? Drop us a comment below with your favourites 🏆

Chinese Athletes // FAQ’s

Who is China’s most successful female Olympian?

Wu Minxia is China’s most successful female Olympian, with 5 gold medals, 1 silver medal, and 1 bronze medal in diving.

Who is China’s best basketball player?

China’s best basketball player is Yao Ming.

Who is China’s best table tennis player?

China’s best table tennis player is Liu Shiwen.

Who is China’s best soccer/football player?

China’s best soccer/football player is most likely the hugely popular Gao Lin.

Who is China’s most successful male Olympian?

China’s most successful male Olympian is Zou Kai, a gymnast who has won 5 gold medals and 1 bronze medal.

Who is China’s most famous/popular athlete?

China’s most famous athlete is the basketball player Yao Ming.

Who is China’s best swimmer?

China’s best swimmer is Sun Yang, who has won 3 Olympic golds and 11 world championships.

Which sports do people in China play for fun?

Leisure sports in China include yoga, running, and dancing.

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