2003-2004 Sports Highlights
In world-class competition, China's women's volleyball team won the World Cup in November 2003, beating Japan 3-0 in the finals to finish the tournament with a perfect record. The Chinese women's volley ball team also won the World Grand Prix in Italy in August and the Asian Championship in Vietnam in October. At the 47th World Table Tennis Championships in Doha, Qatar in March 2004, both the men and the women prevailed: the Chinese men's team won the Swaythling Cup by defeating their German counterpart 3-0 while the Chinese women's team won the Corbillion Cup by defeating the Chinese Hong Kong team 3-0. In regional competition, The Chinese women's basketball team in January 2004 successfully defended its Asian title, beating finalist Japan 92-80 at the Asian women's basketball championship in Sendai, Japan.
The 2003 Chinese Laurels Sports Awards ¡ª China's top ten athletes of the year as selected by a committee including four-time Olympic table tennis champion Deng Yaping and top gymnast Li Ning ¡ª went to: Guo Jingjing, who won a gold medal in the women's three-meter springboard diving at World Swimming Championship held in Barcelona, July 18, 2003; table tennis players, Wang Nan, who helped lead the women's team to its World Cup victory, and Zhang Yining, ranked number one in China and the world in women's singles; Luo Xuejuan, who won the women's 100m breaststroke gold medal at the World Swimming Championships in Barcelona; Yang Yang, the short-track speed skater; men's hurdles athlete Liu Xiang, who in March 2004 set the Asian indoor record twice in the men's 60 meter hurdles at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary; figure skating pair Shen Xue/Zhao Hongbo, who won their second consecutive pairs crown at the World Figure Skating Championships in March 2003 in Washington D.C.; gymnast Li Xiaopeng, who in 2003 retained his vault world title at the 37th World Gymnastics Championships; volleyball player Zhao Ruirui, who lead the Chinese women's volley ball team to its first World Cup title in 18 years; and basketball player Yao Ming.
Yao Ming, an international superstar ranked first in Forbes' Chinese celebrity power rankings, helped China win the 22nd Asian men's basketball championship held in October 2003 in Harbin. Now in his second season for the Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association in the United States, he was again selected for the NBA All-Star Game, as he had been in his rookie season. Another significant breakthrough in the international sports arena for China in 2004 came when Zhang Lianwei became the first Chinese golfer to play in the Masters in Augusta, Georgia in the United States. "For me it was a dream come true," Zhang said. "For China this is only the beginning." Zhang, 38, was issued Masters special invitation after last year becoming the first Chinese golfer to win a European PGA Tour event.