The Most Famous

ATHLETES from China

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest Chinese Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 85 of which were born in China. This makes China the birth place of the 7th most number of Athletes behind Kenya and France.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Chinese Athletes of all time. This list of famous Chinese Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Chinese Athletes.

Photo of Eric Liddell

1. Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945)

With an HPI of 65.65, Eric Liddell is the most famous Chinese Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages on wikipedia.

Eric Henry Liddell (; 16 January 1902 – 21 February 1945) was a Scottish sprinter, rugby player, and Christian missionary. Born in Qing China to Scottish missionary parents, he attended boarding school near London, spending time when possible with his family in Edinburgh, and afterwards attended the University of Edinburgh. At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favoured 100 metres because they were held on a Sunday. Instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, a race that he won. He returned to China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945. Liddell's Olympic training and racing, and the religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire, in which he is portrayed by fellow Scot and University of Edinburgh alumnus Ian Charleson.

Photo of Liu Xiang

2. Liu Xiang (1983 - )

With an HPI of 55.56, Liu Xiang is the 2nd most famous Chinese Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.

Liu Xiang (simplified Chinese: 刘翔; traditional Chinese: 劉翔; pinyin: Liú Xiáng; born July 13, 1983) is a Chinese former 110 meter hurdler. Liu is an Olympic Gold medalist and World Champion. His 2004 Olympic gold medal was the first in a men's track and field event for China. Liu is one of China's most successful athletes and has emerged as a cultural icon. On top of being the only male athlete in history to be all of 110-metre hurdles World Record Holder, World Champion and Olympic Champion—Liu remains the Olympic record holder for the men's 110-metre hurdles with a time of 12.91 seconds he set back at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was the favorite to win another gold in the 110 metre hurdles at the Beijing Olympics, but he had to withdraw from competition at the last moment after a false start and aggravation to a previously unrevealed injury. Again a gold medal favourite in the 110 metre hurdles at the London Olympics he pulled his Achilles tendon attempting to clear the first hurdle in the heats. On April 7, 2015, he announced his retirement on Sina Weibo.

Photo of Wang Junxia

3. Wang Junxia (1973 - )

With an HPI of 54.66, Wang Junxia is the 3rd most famous Chinese Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Wang Junxia (simplified Chinese: 王军霞; traditional Chinese: 王軍霞; pinyin: Wáng Jūnxiá; born January 19, 1973) is a Chinese former long-distance runner who is the current world record holder at 3,000 meters. She also held the world record for the 10,000 meters for 23 years, between 1993 and 2016. Her best years lay between 1991 and 1996. Wang was coached by Ma Junren until 1995 and by Mao Dezhen from 1995 to her retirement after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Photo of Zhu Jianhua

4. Zhu Jianhua (1963 - )

With an HPI of 54.32, Zhu Jianhua is the 4th most famous Chinese Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Zhu Jianhua (simplified Chinese: 朱建华; traditional Chinese: 朱建華; pinyin: Zhū Jiànhuá; born 29 May 1963) is a retired Chinese high jumper. His personal best of 2.39 metres is a former world record for the event. In Helsinki 1983, Zhu became China's first man to win a medal in the IAAF World Championships. In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he became the first male from the People's Republic of China to win an athletics medal in the history of the Olympic Games (Yang Chuan-kwang won a silver medal representing the Republic of China in the 1960 Rome Olympics). He is a two-time gold medallist at both the Asian Games and the Asian Athletics Championships.

Photo of Wang Yifu

5. Wang Yifu (1960 - )

With an HPI of 52.56, Wang Yifu is the 5th most famous Chinese Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Wang Yifu (simplified Chinese: 王义夫; traditional Chinese: 王義夫; pinyin: Wáng Yìfū, born December 4, 1960 in Liaoyang, Liaoning) is a male Chinese pistol shooter, and in terms of Olympic medals one of the most successful sport shooters of all times, and was the first shooter with six individual Olympic medals. He specializes in the 50 m Pistol and 10 m Air Pistol events. He is the only shooter to have won two gold medals in men's 10 metre air pistol. Wang won his first Olympic medal in the Los Angeles games at the age of 23. After this, the Air Pistol event was added to the program, and this is where he has achieved his greatest accomplishments. He won the 1992 gold medal only days after a new medal in the 50 m event. His three attempts to repeat the victory have provided impressive results and very tight duels: In 1996, Wang had a two-point pre-final lead over Roberto Di Donna (Italy), and seemed to be the clear winner until in the last shot he got only 6.5 (at a level where anything below 9.0 is considered a very bad shot), and lost the gold medal by the closest possible margin, 0.1 point. Related to this was a collapse due to medical issues coupled with the extreme heat in Atlanta that day. In 2000, both Wang and Franck Dumoulin (France) scored 590 points and tied for a new Olympic record. Wang lost by two points in the final. In the 2004 competition, Wang scored 590 once more, but lost the Olympic record to Mikhail Nestruev (Russia) who achieved 591. However, the Chinese managed to erase the small gap and eventually won by a margin of 0.2 points to get his second Olympic gold.Also in the ISSF World Shooting Championships, Wang has won both 50 m Pistol (in 1994) and 10 m Air Pistol (in 1998). Wang Yifu is married to sport shooter Zhang Qiuping.

Photo of Xu Haifeng

6. Xu Haifeng (1957 - )

With an HPI of 50.51, Xu Haifeng is the 6th most famous Chinese Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Xu Haifeng (simplified Chinese: 许海峰; traditional Chinese: 許海峰; pinyin: Xǔ Hǎifēng; born August 1, 1957) is a male Chinese pistol shooter, and he is the first citizen of the People's Republic of China to win a gold medal at the Summer Olympics. He specializes in the 50 metre pistol event. He was born in Zhangzhou, Fujian and is a native of He County, Anhui. The first gold medal for China was won by Xu in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, while his teammate Wang Yifu won bronze. After retiring in 1995, he became a coach for the Chinese National Shooting Team. Xu was the torchbearer to bring the Olympic Torch into the Beijing National Stadium, near the end of the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Xu is married to Zhao Lei, the daughter of his coach in the Chinese National Shooting Team. They have a daughter, Xu Jia. Xu is the Deputy Director of Chinese Cycling and Fencing Administration Centre.

Photo of Guo Jingjing

7. Guo Jingjing (1981 - )

With an HPI of 49.57, Guo Jingjing is the 7th most famous Chinese Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Guo Jingjing (Chinese: 郭晶晶; pinyin: Guō Jīngjīng; born October 15, 1981 in Baoding, Hebei) is a retired Chinese female diver, and multi-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion. Guo is tied with her partner Wu Minxia for winning the most Olympic medals (6) of any female diver and she won the 3m springboard event at five consecutive World Championships. She announced her retirement in 2011.

Photo of Qu Yunxia

8. Qu Yunxia (1972 - )

With an HPI of 49.29, Qu Yunxia is the 8th most famous Chinese Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Qu Yunxia (simplified Chinese: 曲云霞; traditional Chinese: 曲雲霞; pinyin: Qǔ Yúnxiá; born 25 December 1972 in Dalian) is a Chinese Olympic athlete who specialized in the 1500 metres. At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona she won a bronze medal in 1500 m. On 9 November 1993 she set the world record in the 1500 metres at 3:50.46 minutes while running in the National Games of China in Beijing. The record stood 22 years, until broken on 17 July 2015, by Genzebe Dibaba who was the only non-Chinese athlete to seriously challenge the mark during that period. She won the 3000 metres at the 1993 World Championships in Athletics, setting what will likely be the permanent Championship Record in the event due to women switching to the 5,000 metres distance beginning in 1995.

Photo of Luan Jujie

9. Luan Jujie (1958 - )

With an HPI of 49.25, Luan Jujie is the 9th most famous Chinese Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Luan Jujie (Chinese: 栾菊杰; pinyin: Luán Jújié; born 14 July 1958 in Nanjing, China) is a Chinese-born Canadian fencer. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she became the first Chinese athlete to win the gold medal in fencing. Since moving to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1985, she has become a Canadian citizen. At the age of 50, Luan represented Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics. She has also participated in the 1988 and 2000 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Wang Yan

10. Wang Yan (1971 - )

With an HPI of 48.68, Wang Yan is the 10th most famous Chinese Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Wang Yan (Chinese: 王妍; pinyin: Wáng Yán; born May 3, 1971 in Liaoning) is a Chinese race walker, who won the bronze medal over 10 km at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She also won the 1993 IAAF World Race Walking Cup, as well as a silver medal at the 1999 World Championships and a bronze at the 2001 East Asian Games. She was the world record holder for the 20 km walk from 2001 to 2005. She held the Asian record for the women's 20 km walk with her best of 1:26:22 hours from 2001 to 2012, until it was beaten by Liu Hong.

Pantheon has 85 people classified as athletes born between 1902 and 2001. Of these 85, 84 (98.82%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Liu Xiang, Wang Junxia, and Zhu Jianhua. The most famous deceased athletes include Eric Liddell. As of October 2020, 23 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Xu Haifeng, Luan Jujie, and Wang Yan.

Living Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Athletes (2020)

Go to all Rankings