SINGAPORE (AFP) – Asia once again left its mark on the world sporting stage in 2009 as the region prepares for a bumper year of competition in 2010.
Among those making headlines was Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.
A hero at home, he proved this year to be the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet when he became the first man to win seven world titles in seven weight classes.
His victory over Miguel Cotto in November set him up for a blockbuster showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr next year and followed-up his stunning knock-out in May of Ricky Hatton.
President Gloria Arroyo led the nation’s celebrations.
“Once again, Filipino grit and determination triumphed over great odds,’’ said her spokesman, Cerge Remonde.
Another to shine was South Korean golfer Yang Yong-Eun, who held off a surging Tiger Woods to become Asia’s first Major winner when he won the US PGA Championship.
China’s Lin Dan also wrote his name in the history books when he became the first shuttler to win a third successive men’s singles title at the World Badminton Championships.
China dominated the event, winning four of the five trophies at stake —men’s singles and doubles, and women’s singles and doubles.
They also retained their Surdirman Cup world badminton team championship title, crushing South Korea in the final in Guangzhou.
In the pool, China boasted a swimming world record when Olympic champion Liu Zige demolished the women’s 200m butterfly mark at her National Games in October, an event marred by sprinter Wang Jing failing a doping test.
It all bodes well for next November when China hosts the Asian Games in Guangzhou.
Asia is also the venue for another big sports spectacle in 2010 when the Commonwealth Games come to New Delhi.
Once again, the Asia-Pacific played host to five Formula One Grand Prix with a sixth added next year when South Korea joins the circuit.
But Asia’s influence took a huge hit with Honda and Toyota pulling out of the sport and Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone also quitting.
All cited the tough economic conditions.
Bucking the trend was Force India which went from strength-to-stength, while Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is at the forefront of the return of Lotus.
The team will race in 2010 and are backed by 1Malaysia F1 Team Sdn Bhd, a public-private partnership involving a string of top local entrepreneurs, as well as Malaysian automaker Proton.
“It will help brand Malaysia and spur excellence in sports and education,’’ said Kamarudin Meranum, deputy chief executive of AirAsia, which is one of the team’s partners.
Some of the biggest names in sport ventured to Asia, with golfing superstar Woods drawing huge crowds to the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which was won by Phil Mickelson, and the Australian Masters in Melbourne.