Mandarin House Introduces Chinese Sports 体育 Stars 明星: Li Na 李娜 & Yao Ming 姚明


Even without knowing much about China, if you follow sports, then you’ve probably heard of Li Na 李娜 and Yao Ming 姚明. Here’s a bit more about how they came to be some of the biggest Chinese names in sports.

Li first picked up a tennis 网球 racket when she was 8 years old and has been playing ever since. She joined the China national tennis team in 1997 and turned pro in 1999. In 2006, she married another tennis player, Jiang Shan, and he served as her personal coach. Two years later she decided to train independently of the state-run athletics program. This decision combined with the rose tattoo on her chest has turned her into something of a “rebel” in the eyes of the Chinese.

In 2006 she was the first Chinese player to ever reach a Grand Slam 大满贯 quarterfinal match and was ranked 20th in the WTA. She continued to compete on the WTA circuit and reached the top 10 ranking in 2010. Though, her great breakthrough came in 2011 when she won the French Open 法国网球公开赛 and became the first Grand Slam winner from an Asian country.


Another mega-superstar of Chinese athletics is basketball 篮球 player Yao Ming 姚明. He was known for both his versatility and incredible size. In his final year of professional basketball, Yao was the tallest player in the NBA at 2.29 meters, 141 kilograms.

Yao was born in Shanghai, China and began playing basketball when he was 9 years old. He trained extensively at Chinese sports schools and played professional basketball with the Shanghai Sharks 鲨鱼 for 5 years before joining the Houston Rockets 火箭 in 2002.

In his rookie year he was voted to start in the annual NBA All-Star game and returned to the All-Star game 7 more times. In 2005, he broke the record for most All-Star votes, previously held by Michael Jordan 乔丹.

Unfortunately, due to his persistent injuries, he retired in July of 2011. This announcement drew 1.2 million comments on Sina Weibo 新浪微博, a Chinese social-networking site.

Li and Yao are both well-known and well-liked by sports fans 粉丝 inside and outside of China.

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