Chinese chess master, who arrived in Beijing on Monday night, told the Global Times that winning the 200th gold medal for the Chinese delegation at the Hangzhou Asian Games was a difficult journey and a particularly meaningful victory.
Zheng Weitong broke the record of winning 199 gold medals at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games by defeating teammate Zhao Xinxin in the men’s individual Xiangqi (Chinese chess) final on Saturday. This was the Chinese delegation’s 200th gold medal overall.
The Chinese delegation achieved the greatest feat by a single delegation in the history of the Asian multi-sport showcase, finishing the Hangzhou Games with 201 golds, 111 silvers, and 71 bronzes. Since 1982, China has dominated the medal standings at the Asian Games for 11 years running.
Zheng was met with cheers and applause upon his victorious return to Beijing, and he talked about his first Asian Games experience in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.
Zheng, who attained the rank of grand master after winning the 2014 national Xiangqi championship, expressed his happiness that Chinese chess has returned to the Asian Games after a 13-year absence, citing the popularity of the mental game as evidence.
In 2010, Chinese chess was added to the Asian Games’ official schedule. This time, 39 athletes competed in the mixed team and men’s and women’s individual events for the three gold medals that were up for grabs.
Chinese competitors presented tough obstacles, according to 30-year-old Zheng, when they competed in both the mixed team and individual events.
“Our mutual trust and teamwork were put to the test during the team event. We were available to the coach and willing to take charge, regardless of who plays in each of the six rounds. We worked as a team to prepare each round, and Zheng stated that communication was essential to our performance and stress relief.
Zhao Xinxin, Wang Yang, and Wang Linna defeated their Vietnamese opponents to win the gold in the team final.
The men’s individual event was the historic moment. China is up against tough competition on the international scene as a result of the growth of Xiangqi abroad, which has attracted an increasing number of foreign competitors. The Vietnamese national team has two players in the national Xiangqi league of China.
“Foreign players have advanced incredibly, and there was a point when I was forced to play without any margin for error. I would be eliminated from the final even in a draw. Before I could go to the final, I had to grind through six rounds,” Zheng said.
A Vietnamese player was outwitted by his teammate Zhao, paving the way for an all-Chinese individual final.
Zheng acknowledged that his colleague had been more prepared for the championship match, and they had not anticipated that the gold medal would represent a first for the Chinese delegation.
“I appreciate my teammates helping me prepare for the Asian Games. During the Games, we were very helpful to one another. Our objective was to secure the gold for China, regardless of our personal interests,” he stated.
“The day before the final, we discussed whether China could break the 200 gold mark, but we never imagined that Xiangqi would break the record. After the final, I was informed of the news,” Zheng, who is also an MBA candidate at Tsinghua University, stated.
“Zhao was probably under more pressure as he was a Hangzhou native. I was lucky to win the final and be the one to set the new milestone. It was the result of the joint efforts made by all the Chinese athletes. Winning the 200th gold was a big surprise and is of great significance to me,” he said.
At the Hangzhou Games, China ultimately took home all three of the Xiangqi gold medals.
“The only event at the Hangzhou Asian Games that features Chinese characteristics is xiangqi. The Chinese Xiangqi team’s coach, Lü Qin, stated, “The Asian Games is the best platform for us to promote Xiangqi and Chinese culture to the world.”
Zheng has his sights set on the 5th National Mind Sports Games, which are scheduled to start on October 25, with little time for rest.
“I have to return to Tsinghua and catch up on my studies,” Zheng, who is soon to publish his first book on Xiangqi opening variations, stated.
Chinese board game Xiangqi, played by two players, belongs to the same family as Western chess, chaturanga, shogi, and janggi. Because it originated in China, the modern variant of Xiangqi is sometimes referred to as Chinese chess.