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Keep an eye on these five athletes and their competitors as the 19th Asian Games commence in Hangzhou, China, featuring over 12,400 participants competing in 61 different disciplines. With representatives from 45 Asian nations, this event marks a significant step in their journey towards the 2024 Paris Olympics. The action begins with the swimming finals this Saturday, making it the perfect time to follow these standout athletes.
Top 5 Athletes to Watch in Asian Games 2023
|Players to Watch
|Mutaz Essa Barshim
Mutaz Essa Barshim, Qatar (High Jump)
Barshim, who shares the Olympic men’s high jump gold, recently clinched a bronze at the World Championships in the same event. He is now laser-focused on the Asian Games, an integral part of his preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Barshim’s personal best high jump stands at 2.43 meters, a record he established in 2014. Although this ranks as the second-highest high jump in history, his best jump this season has been 2.36 meters.
In the upcoming competition, this Qatari track and field star will face stiff competition from Woo Sang-hyeok of the Republic of Korea, whose personal best of 2.35 meters adds an exciting element to the contest, turning it into a battle of skill and strategy as much as physical prowess.
Neeraj Chopra, India (Javelin)
Last month, Neeraj Chopra made history by securing India’s first-ever gold medal in any World Athletics Championships event in the men’s javelin. Following his individual Olympic gold win in Tokyo with a remarkable throw of 87.58 meters, Chopra outdid himself at the World Athletics Championships with a throw of 88.17 meters.
Neeraj Chopra’s main competitor at the upcoming Asian Games is expected to be Arshad Nadeem from Pakistan, who earned second place at the World Championships in August. Nadeem made history as the first South Asian to achieve a throw beyond 90 meters during the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with an impressive 90.18 meters. Anticipate an exciting showdown between these two fierce rivals when athletics takes the spotlight in the second week of the Asian Games.
Also Read | List of Asian Games Records in Athletics
Hidilyn Diaz, Philippines (Weightlifting)
Diaz, the Olympic champion in the 55kg weight class at Tokyo 2020, previously excelled in the 53kg category, earning Asian Games gold in 2018. Now, the athlete hailing from Zamboanga City is taking on another significant challenge, moving up to the 59kg weight class.
Her initial experiences at this new weight have seen her finish fourth at the Asian Championships and seventh at the World Championships. While these results may not immediately indicate triumph, it’s essential to remember that Diaz is a proven winner, being the Philippines’ sole Olympic champion in history. Hangzhou presents an ideal opportunity for her to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with in this weight category.
Hwang Sun-woo, Republic of Korea (Swimming)
Fresh from securing a bronze medal in the men’s 200m freestyle at the World Championships, and narrowly missing the Asian record by a mere two one-hundredths of a second, Sun-woo is determined to claim gold in Hangzhou.
In the pool, Sun-woo faces formidable competition from China’s Pan Zhanle, who sits just one spot behind Sun-woo in terms of the fastest 200m freestyle times globally this year. Zhanle is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to ascend to the top of the podium at the Asian Games, especially with the home crowd behind him.
Furthermore, Zhanle and Sun-woo are closely matched rivals in the men’s 100m freestyle. Zhanle holds the Asian record for that event at 47.22 seconds, while Sun-woo’s best time this year is 47.78 seconds, setting the stage for another exhilarating and closely contested battle in the pool.
Also Read | Top 10 Best Swimmers in the World of All Time
Ikee Rikako, Japan (Swimming)
Another athlete who demands attention in the initial days of the Asian Games is Ikee Rikako. In the 2018 edition of the Games, she not only secured six gold and two silver medals but also earned the Female MVP award.
However, her journey took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with leukemia a year later. Rikako also took some time off to complete her university studies. In 2023, fans and fellow athletes alike will undoubtedly rally behind Rikako as she strives for gold once again.
In conclusion, the Asian Games promise to showcase an incredible array of talent from across the continent. Among the top 5 athletes to watch, Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar in athletics, Neeraj Chopra from India in athletics, Hidilyn Diaz from the Philippines in weightlifting, Ikee Rikako from Japan in swimming, and Hwang Sun-woo from the Republic of Korea in swimming stand out as exceptional talents who have the potential to capture hearts and headlines with their remarkable performances. These athletes represent the spirit of competition and unity in Asia, and their achievements are sure to inspire and captivate audiences around the world during the Asian Games.