Asian Games

Asian Games esports
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Esports into Asian Games; Olympics next?

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Esports is debuting as an exhibition sport at the Asian Games and is targeted for full inclusion in four years at the games in Hangzhou, China.

Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, said the long-term aim is getting esports into the Olympics.

This seems a possibility, given that the International Olympic Committee held a forum on esports just last month at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“Our agenda is to push for the Olympic agenda,” Fok said at the opening of esports at the Asian Games. “This is our work. And this is our passion, this is what drives us. When? I don’t know. When, I do not want to predict.”

Fok described the inclusion of esports as an exhibition in the Asian Games as “a very good first step” and said the goal is to “take down obstacles, step by step.”

Fok has strong Olympic connections. His father, Timothy, was an IOC member from Hong Kong from 2001 until 2016 and he remains an honorary member.

Gamers don’t argue they are athletes, but say they share the same drive to compete. But this could also be said about bridge players — a game also being contested at the Asian Games — or chess, or competitive dancing.

But these pastimes can’t generate much income — not like esports.

“I think esports shares the same spirit with traditional sports,” said Wang Tianlong of China, speaking through a translator, after taking gold in Arena of Valor. “No matter if we are esports players or athletes, we all fight to win for our country.”

Khien Vuong Trung, a bronze medalist from Vietnam in Arena of Valor, said he met initial skepticism.

“At the beginning, my parents didn’t want me to be a professional esports athlete,” he said. “But it is growing in my country. And my parents also saw my love for it. So they began to be supportive.”

In addition to Arena of Valor, five other games are being played: Clash Royale, League of Legends, StarCraft II, Hearthstone, and PES 2018.

Eighteen countries are competing led by South Korea, where the gaming craze took off first. Also included are: Indonesia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, India, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, and Iran.

IOC President Thomas Bach, speaking last month at an IOC-sponsored forum, said there is a growing connection between the Olympics and esports. He stopped short of saying when — of even if — esports might make the Olympics. But he was enthusiastic about the dialogue.

“We feel the same passion for your activity as you feel the passion for our activity,” Bach told professional gamer Jake Lyon. Bach said at the forum that the Olympics and esports shared at least two values — “passion and excellence.”

Bach promised to explore ways the two communities can work together.

“On this solid ground we can build a partnership,” he said.

Esports offers a natural appeal for the IOC, which is looking for a younger audience and revenue.

Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, an American video games developer, told Bach at the forum that esports has 2 billion people worldwide playing electronic games, with 380 million watching esports. He said the viewer numbers could grow to about 600 million in two years, touching potential sponsors, gamers, professional leagues, and game developers.

The IOC has already included skateboarding, surfing and sports climbing into the schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, hoping to draw a younger fan base.

“Anybody who enjoys watching traditional sports probably knows that the things that you grow up with are things that you are interested in throughout your whole life,” Morhaime said.

Nicolo Laurent, the CEO of Riot Games, said esports had 14 leagues and some elite players were making millions of dollars.

Morhaime said the demographic of esports was “20 to 40 years younger than traditional sports.”

“We are at an inflection point in esports,” Morhaime said. “Folks who hadn’t really been paying attention to the esports phenomenon are starting to really be interested.”

Count the Asian Games and the Olympics among them.

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India badminton star is world’s top paid female athlete outside tennis

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Pusarla Venkata Sindhu of India— known as PV — turned a silver medal two years ago in badminton at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics into millions of dollars in endorsements.

She’s the favorite to win gold at the Asian Games, though even that result may not yield the same windfall.

The magazine Forbes lists her as the seventh highest-earning female athlete in the world with an income of about $8.5 million — more than 90 percent from endorsements. And almost all from her success in Brazil.

She’s second at home in sports earnings only to India cricket captain Virat Kohli.

Tennis star Serena Williams headed the Forbes list of top earners in women’s sports, but Sindhu is ranked higher than the No. 1-ranked player on the WTA Tour, Simona Halep of Romania.

“To be in the list is a great feeling because everybody compares you with other players — the big shots,” she said Saturday after beating Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia 21-12, 21-15 to reach the quarterfinals.

“Many are coming to me saying now you are a millionaire,” she said, breaking into a nervous laugh. She joked that she now ranks with “the legends.”

India has a dearth of female sports stars, so Sindhu’s success has triggered lots of interest from sponsors.

Another factor driving her marketability is India’s previous lack of success in the Olympics.

India has won only one Olympic gold medal in an individual sport. That was with shooter Abhinav Bindra in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The other eight gold medals all came in field hockey, a team event.

India won only two medals in Rio — Sindhu’s silver and Sakshi Malik’s bronze in women’s freestyle wrestling.

Saina Nehwal, a former No. 1-ranked badminton player, cheered Sindhu’s ascent.

“I’m happy with what I’m earning, and she is happy with what she’s earning,” Nehwal said.

Sindhu knows she’s growing the game at home.

“Badminton as a sport has been increasing a lot,” Sindhu said. “Everybody wants to play badminton right now in India.”

There are a million reasons.

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Sun Yang pulls a Katie Ledecky at Asian Games

Sun Yang
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It became known as the Ledecky Slam three years ago. Sun Yang just matched it, not at the world championships, but at the Asian Games.

Sun, a 26-year-old Chinese swimmer, swept the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles at the multi-sport quadrennial event in Indonesia, capping it with his fourth gold on Friday.

It’s not much of a surprise. Sun won the 400m and 1500m at the 2012 London Olympics, then snatched the 200m free in Rio. He also owns nine world championships among the four distances.

Sun has never recorded the Slam at a world championships like Ledecky, though. Nobody has.

He swept the 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at the 2013 Worlds and took 200m silver, 400m gold and 800m gold in 2015 before controversially not showing for the 1500m free final, citing heart issues after a report of a warm-up pool altercation.

At 2017 Worlds, Sun was fifth in the 800m free and withdrew from the 1500m free before the heats, continuing a recent trend of his prowess moving toward the shorter distances.

His 1500m time Friday — 14:58.53 — was 27.51 seconds off his world record from the 2012 Olympics and puts him 15th in the world this year. Sun ranks No. 3 in the world in 2018 in the 200m, No. 1 in the 400m and No. 8 in the 800m.

That makes it unlikely that Sun could repeat the feat at the 2019 Worlds in South Korea or the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where the men’s 800m free makes its Olympic debut.

Also at the Asian Games, Japanese 18-year-old Rikako Ikee won the women’s 50m and 100m frees and 50m and 100m butterflies, in addition to a pair of relay golds. She’s setting up to be one of the 2020 Olympic host nation’s biggest stars.

Ikee proved versatile at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo two weeks ago, winning the 100m fly in a national record and taking second in the 200m free, one spot ahead of Ledecky.

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