Olympic taekwondo champion Zhao Shuai has been named as China’s flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony of the Asian Games here tomorrow, an announcement which has surprised much of the Chinese media.
It was widely expected that either the women’s volleyball captain Zhu Ting or swimmer Sun Yang would get the nod but instead Shuai, winner of China’s first taekwondo Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016, has been given the honour.
Shuai, relatively unknown in China in comparison to Ting and Yang, won the gold medal in the under-53 kilograms category at Rio 2016.
The 23-year-old is due to compete in the under-63kg class here - the event he won the gold medal in at the World Championships in Muju last year.
Prior to the announcement, made during a flag raising ceremony in the Athletes’ Village, it was assumed that one of the more recognisable stars Ting or Yang would carry the flag at Jakarta's 75,000-capacity Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium.
Sun Yang won China’s first Olympic swimming gold medal at London 2012, breaking a world record in the process, and has since won five World Championship titles and a further gold medal at RIo 2016.
Ting, meanwhile, captained China to victory in the women’s volleyball at Rio 2016 and was afterwards named the competition’s most valuable player.
The announcement of Shuai as flagbearer does continue the Chinese tradition however, of having a reigning Olympic champion carry the flag at the Asian Games.
China is set to be represented by a team of 845 athletes at the Asian Games, which is being co-hosted by Jakarta and Palembang and is due to last until September 2.
China have finished top of the medals table at every Games since returning at New Delhi in 1982 following a 14-year absence.
At Incheon four years ago China's team of 880 won a total of 342 medals, including 151 gold, their best performance for a Games outside China.
China's best Asian Games performance was at Guangzhou in 2010 when they won a total of 416 medals - 199 of them gold.