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Remembering the top moments of the Chengdu FISU Games

15 August 2023

From the moment the torch was lit under a firework-filled sky at Dong’an Lake Sports Park Stadium on 28 July until it was extinguished 12 days later, student athletes from around the world competed at the highest level at the 31st edition of the FISU World University Games Summer in Chengdu, China.

From start to finish

The first medal of the Chengdu FISU Games was awarded in the traditional Chinese martial art discipline of Wushu. China’s Cao Maoyuan claimed gold in men’s Nanquan with a score of 9.770, followed by Hong Kong’s Lau Chi Lung and Iran’s Banitalebi Shahin.

Members of Team China celebrate their victory

China celebrate their victory in women’s basketballIn traditional FISU Summer Games fashion, the men’s water polo final wrapped up the multisport event. On the last day of action in Chengdu, Italy defended its title from Napoli 2019 with a 13-11 victory over Hungary.

Home-field advantage

The host nation captured an impressive total of 178 medals at the Chengdu FISU Games, surpassing its previous-best tally of 146 from Shenzhen 2011. China’s performance ranks second all-time for a single FISU Games behind Russia’s whopping 287 medals – also on home soil – at Kazan 2013.

China was dominant in women’s team sports, sweeping gold in basketball, volleyball and water polo. Volleyball player Wu Mengjie joked that the country’s men’s teams couldn’t keep up with the women’s success.

“Come on! We believe in you,” said the student from Nanjing Normal University.

Unsurprisingly, China also had success across the board in table tennis. Chinese athletes took gold in all seven medal events and claimed 13 of the 28 medals awarded

Zhang Yufei 1Zhang Yufei (China), winner of nine gold medals overall.

In swimming, 25-year-old Zhang Yufei performed a master class at Dong’an Lake Sports Park Aquatics Centre. The two-time Olympic champion from Tokyo 2020 won nine gold medals in as many events, setting an incredible eight FISU Games records along the way. Her teammate, Li Bingjie also had a stellar competition winning eight gold.

Spreading the love

Despite China’s domination, other delegations posted impressive overall performances in Chengdu.

Japan and South Korea placed second and third in the medal standings with 93 and 58 podium finishes, respectively.

Italy showed dominance in the pool, earning 31 swimming medals compared to China’s 20.

On the last day of athletics, Türkiye won eight medals, to bring their overall total in track and field events to a surprising 18, with eight of them gold. The European country notably performed well in the half-marathon, earning six medals in the event, and ended the day with a thrilling victory in the men’s 4x400m relay.

FISU records

Elena Tangherlini (L) and Serena Rossini of Team Italy are in competition

Elena Tangherlini (L) and Serena Rossini of Italy in fencing competition

22 times in Chengdu FISU Games records were broken, including 19 in swimming.

Zhang contributed to eight of those new standards in the pool, either individually or as part of relays.  

In other sports, India set a new mark in men’s team 10m air rifle with a score of 1894.7, while Portuguese João Coelho and Australian Reece Holder now share the men’s 400 record in athletics after each posting a time of 44.79 seconds.

While he did not set a FISU Games record, pommel horse gold medallist Lee Chih-kai of Taiwan deserves an honorable mention for becoming the first artistic gymnast in history to claim individual apparatus victories at three consecutive FISU Games. The reigning Olympic silver medallist had previously won FISU pommel horse gold at Taipei 2017 and Napoli 2019.

Moments to remember

The basketball finals at the Fenghuangshan Sports Park Gymnasium exemplified the atmosphere of the FISU Games. A sold-out 20,000-person crowd cheered for China’s

Kazuma Kaya (JAPAN) in action

Kazuma Kaya (Japan) competing in men’s rings success in the women’s final and Czechia’s nail-biting, two-point win over Brazil in the men’s final.

The High-Tech Zone Sports Centre Gymnasium was also filled to the brim for the table tennis gold medal matches. The support from local fans surely helped China’s Qian Tianyi reign victorious in her seven-set women’s singles final against Japan’s Idesawa Kyokain.

The men’s artistic gymnastics competition was special at the Dong’an Lake Sports Park Multi-Purpose Gymnasium as it was widely considered the highest-level meet of the year in the sport. Among many Olympic and world champions competing, China’s Zou Jingyuan stood out with his three medals, including gold in the men’s team event and individual parallel bars, as well as silver in rings.

South Africa Women's 4x100m

South Africa Women’s 4x100m relay bronze medal winning team in athletics – from left to right, Banele Shabangu, Elsabe van der Merwe, Joviale Mbisha, and Tamzin Thomas

The FISU Games were also a fostering ground for unprecedented feats.

Rose Yeboah, who won athletics gold in women’s high jump, became the first female athlete from Ghana to earn a FISU medal.

Also in athletics, Patrizia van der Weken merited Luxembourg’s first-ever FISU Games gold – and became the country’s first female medallist – thanks to her triumph in the 100m.

Brunei’s Basma Lachkar also earned the country’s first-ever FISU medal with silver in women’s Taijijian Wushu.

Overall, it was an incredible 12 days of competition and camaraderie in Chengdu. While the FISU Games in the Sichuan capital have drawn to a close, athletes can now look ahead to the Rhine-Ruhr 2025 FISU World University Games, while taking home with them from China, memories to last a lifetime.

Written by Miriam Celebiler and Louis Gilles, FISU Young Reporters