- Make us your homepage -
Simplified ChineseTraditional Chinese

Latest Update

Yearender: The sports stars we lost in 2016

Updated: 12 27 , 2016 14:59
Xinhua Small  Medium  Large Email Print

BEIJING, Dec. 26 -- World sports lost many shining stars in 2016: Muhammad Ali, Johan Cruyff, and Craig Sager, to name a few. While each will be missed, their indelible contributions to world sports mean that our memories of them will not be fading any time soon.


*Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74 on June 4, after battling the Parkinson's disease for 32 years. Considered one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, the three-time heavyweight boxing champion fought both his disease and racial discrimination over the course of his long career.

In 1960, Ali won the final at men's 81kg boxing match at the Olympics, however, he threw the gold medal into the Ohio River to protest racial segregation in the United States.

Ali was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998. He dedicated his life to justice and sought to emphasize the importance of sportsmanship.

*World famous football player and coach Johan Cruyff died of cancer on March 24 at the age of 69. Cruyff is widely credited as the man who changed FC Barcelona's mentality and style, ushering in an era of dominance for the club in both Spain and Europe.

Among soccer giants, Cruyff enjoyed popularity equal to that of Pele, Diego Maradona and Franz Beckenbauer, and was the first in this group of legends to pass away. But his legacy lives on: the playing styles of Ajax, the Netherlands, FC Barcelona, and the Spanish national team, are influenced by him.

*FIFA's former president Joao Havelange passed away during the 2016 Olympics held in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro. He passed away at the incredible age of 100, and was able to witness the Olympics held successfully on his doorstep.

Havelange led FIFA for 24 years between 1974 and 1998, launching a series of reforms to make the world football governing body a "commercial empire."

Havelange played an important role in Rio's successful bid for the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The course of his work to help his hometown realize its Olympic dream led him to remain active even at the age of 93 in 2009.


There are lots of unfamiliar names in sports, but there is hardly such thing as an ordinary athlete on the world stage.

*83-year-old Liu Lianman passed away on April 27 in north China's Harbin City. He was not famous worldwide, but his story touched the country and can serve as an inspiration to the world.

Liu literally climbed the highest mountains over the course of his incredible career.

Liu was a former member of the Chinese mountaineering team. Fifty-seven years ago, while climbing Mount Qomolangma, Liu gave his oxygen bottle to a teammate, and allowed him to step on his back in order to get him up. Because of his bravery, he and his teammates, for the first time in human history, summited the world's highest peak from its northern slope. Liu's brave and heroic act will be forever remembered.

*One of the biggest tragedies to rock the sporting world took place in South America this year. A plane carrying players from the Brazilian football team Chapecoense crashed in Colombia on November 28. Nineteen players were killed, devastating the team and sending shockwaves throughout the South American football community, where the sport is deeply embedded in the culture.

Although not very famous, Chapecoense were on the way up in the world of South American football. They were on their way to the final of the South American Cup (known as the Copa Sudamericana).

Out of respect for the team, rivals Atletico Nacional requested that the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) declare Chapecoense the winner of the 2016 championship.

*Zeng Xuelin, former coach of China's national football team, passed away on February 11. Older Chinese football fans might remember that under his leadership, the national team were runners-up in the 1984 Asia Cup.

However, when the team lost to their Hong Kong compatriots in 1985, and missed an opportunity to participate in the 1986 World Cup, the Chinese fans were quite angry and caused what became known as the 5.19 disturbance. Zeng retired shortly thereafter.


Some sports stars make their mark through major contributions to the world of sports. We lost several of them in 2016.

*Veteran Chinese sports reporter Gao Dianmin, who covered every edition of the Summer Olympics from 1984 to 2016, died of a heart attack on November 11 at the age of 62. Gao was the first reporter in the world to break the news that Xu Haifeng won China's first ever Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

"He was easygoing and warm-hearted, both before and after he achieved fame," Xu said. "Whatever happened, he never lost his calmness. He is a good example for young journalists."

Gao, a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) press committee, joined Xinhua News Agency in 1977 after graduating from university. Gao also participated in the torch relay for the Athens, Beijing, London and Rio Olympics. Gao's own 'torch' will continue to be relayed by the younger generations of sports reporters in China.

*The name "Silvio Gazzaniga" is not that famous worldwide, but the name has left a lasting mark.

The FIFA World Cup trophy was designed by Gazzaniga, an Italian artist who was born in 1921 and died on October 31, 2016. His design was chosen from among 53 entries. The 36.8cm high trophy is made of 18-carat gold and weighs 6.175 kilos.

The name of each winning team is engraved, in English, on the base of the trophy. There are enough spaces to last until the 2038 World Cup.

*Finally, legendary NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager died at the age of 65 on December 15. He was one of the most famous reporters in the Turner broadcasting network. Sager was also known as a fighter, battling acute myeloid leukemia since being diagnosed in 2014.

He was best known for his colorful and distinctive suits, helping him to easily stand out as he recapped the latest action from the court over a 40-year reporting career.

"I, along with the entire NBA family, am deeply saddened by the passing of Craig Sager," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

"Craig was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches," Silver added.

By Li Kun, Duan Xu and Spencer Musick

Related Stories