Generation Z shines in China's National Games

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As China's 14th National Games draws to a close, Generation Z athletes have convinced the world with their solid performance.

Yang Qian, Li Wenwen and Quan Hongchan became champions in both the Olympic Games and the National Games in a span of two months, bringing promising prospects for the upcoming Paris Olympic Games.


Born in 2000, Li Wenwen is undoubtedly the most popular Gen Z weightlifting athlete at the National Games, delivering a stunning victory with a 320kg total in the women's 87kg event, the same as her winning-record at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

File photo of Li Wenwen.

After winning gold again, Li made a heart gesture to her supporters like she usually does. "I only do this when I win gold," said the 21-year-old. "I won't do it without a gold medal."

Stable and dominant on the field, Li likes to dress up, cook and play video games in her daily life. With millions of followers on live streaming and video platforms, Li likes to share her training and life online, showing her personality and a positive attitude.

Besides Li, some other post-00s athletes have also emerged as title contenders in the weightlifting arena. In the women's 49kg category, Wang Jiali, 19, from Hunan Province, beat other elite athletes to win a bronze medal, finishing behind Olympic gold medalist Hou Zhihui and world champion Jiang Huihua.

Luo Shifang of Hunan broke the national youth record in the women's 59kg category. In the women's 76kg category, Peng Cuiting of Guangdong snatched 125kg to beat the world record held by DPR Korea's Jong Sim Rim for 28 years.


Gen Z athletes Yang Qian and Zhang Changhong have already shown their talents at the Tokyo Olympics by winning gold medals. The National Games shooting range, however, has witnessed the rise of some promising new faces.

In the women's 10m air pistol final, Shen Yiyao of Shanghai, who finished sixth in qualifying, led from the fifth round to beat Olympic gold medalist Jiang Ranxin with 241.9 points, winning gold at her Nationals Games debut.

"I started shooting in the fifth grade of elementary school," said the 17-year-old. "My parents thought I was too naughty and wanted me to be quiet, so they sent me to practice shooting because they heard that shooting can make people calm down."

When talking about her future, Shen knew there is still "a long way to go" for her, adding "I will work harder to improve myself and hope to stand on the world stage in the future."

Another 17-year-old, Wang Zhilin upset Olympic gold medalist Yang in the women's 10m air rifle to take gold with 253.3 points, surpassing Yang's record-breaking 251.8 points in Tokyo.

She previously qualified for the final with 634.4 points and set a new national record. Du Li, head coach of the national team and two-time Olympic gold medalist, said that China's talent in shooting is "exciting."

"It's even rare to see this level of competition in international events," Du said. "China has been dominant in rifle, and it's good to see the intense competition. It is a good sign for the preparation for the Paris Olympics."


As the youngest athlete of the Chinese delegation to the Tokyo Olympics, 14-year-old Quan Hongchan pocketed gold again in the women's 10m platform with her perfect performance, along with a gold medal in the women's team event with Guangdong.

Besides Quan, 16-year-old Chen Yuxi and 17-year-old Zhang Jiaqi are also gold contenders in the event. The Olympic gold-winning pair extended their perfect record in the women's synchronized 10m platform at the National Games.

For the teenage divers, they have to deal with the uncertainties of their physical growth, which has already brought ups and downs for the relatively older Chen and Zhang. Quan will have to face the same problem in the near future.

To remain the most competitive in women's diving for a longer period of time, these girls will have to overcome all the difficulties and challenge themselves.

In the men's events, 14-year-old twins Bai Yuming and Bai Yuhao stunned in the pool as they first claimed gold in the youth synchronized 10m platform, gold and silver respectively in the individual 10m platform and later took bronze in the men's synchronized 10m platform which featured several Olympic gold medalists and world champions.


In the badminton women's singles, Gen Z athletes have made a strong showing. Wang Zhiyi put great pressure on Olympic gold medalist Chen Yufei in the semifinals, in which they performed an 80-shot rally.

Wang managed to win one gold and one bronze at her second National Games, becoming a reliable player in the team event. As the No. 3 seed in China's women's singles during the Tokyo Olympic cycle, Wang will surely become a key force for the Paris Olympics.

Despite losing to Wang in the bronze medal event, 18-year-old Tan Ning put on a good show in both the singles and doubles. With strong offense and jumping ability, Tan was able to form a strong pair with Huang Dongping in the women's doubles.

In the men's singles, 18-year-old Dong Tianyao made it to the quarterfinals in his National Games debut after successive victories over world No. 29 Huang Yuxiang and world No. 17 Lee Cheuk Yiu. Dong also served as the flag bearer of the Anhui delegation at the opening ceremony of the National Games.


Turning professional for only the second year, Renqingdongzhibu took gold in the men's marathon at the National Games with a time of 2:14:26, five seconds ahead of Peng Jianhua, who was the national champion in 5,000m and 10,000m.

Renqingdongzhibu came from west China's Qinghai Province. Born in 2000, he used to be a cowherd, running on the prairie with his cows and sheep.

When he turned 16, he entered a sports school and started getting involved in running. He made it to the provincial team in 2018 and started to train as a professional athlete.

In 2020, Renqingdongzhibu started to compete in marathon and finished sixth in Xuzhou Marathon in April 2021, in which Peng Jianhua was the champion.

Only five months after the defeat, the 20-year-old came back stronger at the National Games and beat the champion who used to be way ahead. 

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