Sports: Asia leaves its mark on 2009

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Asia once again left its mark on the world sporting stage in 2009 as the region prepares for a bumper year of competition in 2010.

Among those making headlines was Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

A hero at home, he proved this year to be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet when he became the first man to win seven world titles in seven weight classes.

His victory over Miguel Cotto in November set him up for a blockbuster showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr next year and followed-up his stunning knock-out in May of Ricky Hatton.

President Gloria Arroyo led the nation's celebrations.

"Once again, Filipino grit and determination triumphed over great odds," said her spokesman, Cerge Remonde.

Another to shine was South Korean golfer Yang Yong-Eun, who held off a surging Tiger Woods to become Asia's first Major winner when he won the US PGA Championship.

China's Lin Dan also wrote his name in the history books when he became the first shuttler to win a third successive men's singles title at the World Badminton Championships.

China dominated the event, winning four of the five trophies at stake - men's singles and doubles, and women's singles and doubles.

They also retained their Surdirman Cup world badminton team championship title, crushing South Korea in the final in Guangzhou.

In the pool, China boasted a swimming world record when Olympic champion Liu Zige demolished the women's 200m butterfly mark at her National Games in October, an event marred by sprinter Wang Jing failing a doping test.

It all bodes well for next November when China hosts the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Asia is also the venue for another big sports spectacle in 2010 when the Commonwealth Games come to New Delhi.

Once again, the Asia-Pacific played host to five Formula One Grand Prix with a sixth added next year when South Korea joins the circuit.

But Asia's influence took a huge hit with Honda and Toyota pulling out of the sport and Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone also quitting.

All cited the tough economic conditions.

Bucking the trend was Force India which went from strength-to-stength, while Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is at the forefront of the return of Lotus.

The team will race in 2010 and are backed by 1Malaysia F1 Team Sdn Bhd, a public-private partnership involving a string of top local entrepreneurs, as well as Malaysian automaker Proton.

"It will help brand Malaysia and spur excellence in sports and education," said Kamarudin Meranum, deputy chief executive of AirAsia, which is one of the team's partners.

Some of the biggest names in sport ventured to Asia, with golfing superstar Woods drawing huge crowds to the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which was won by Phil Mickelson, and the Australian Masters in Melbourne.

However the golfing landscape changed, with the OneAsia Tour, which is backed by Australia, China and Korea, launching a rival to the established Asian Tour.

It sparked a bitter war of words, with the Asian Tour accusing OneAsia of stealing its tournaments. The battle is set to heat up next year with OneAsia announcing an expanded schedule of 11 events while the Asian Tour has 28.

Sir Alex Ferguson brought his Manchester United team to Malaysia, China and Korea for sell-out games, but the Jakarta leg was called off after a bomb exploded at the hotel they were due to stay in.

Meanwhile, Australia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea sealed the region's four berths at next year's World Cup, while New Zealand won the Asia-Oceania play-off to ensure their first appearance at the tournament since 1982.

South Korea's Pohang Steelers won the AFC Champions League while AFC chief Mohamed bin Hammam narrowly retained his FIFA executive committee seat after one of the most vitriolic battles regional football has known.

In cricket, Pakistan were denied the right to co-host the 2011 World Cup due to security concerns after the Sri Lankan team was attacked by militants while travelling to the ground in Lahore in March.

Pakistan, meanhwile, won the World Twenty20 in England in June, beating Sri Lanka in the final, while the money-spinning Indian Premier League had to be shifted to South Africa for security reasons.