Though both absent from the 2011 CCTV (China Central Television) Sports Personality Awarding Ceremony, China's leading women tennis ace Li Na and swimming world champion Sun Yang dominated the Best Athlete Awards at the National Stadium on Sunday.
Li, 29, made history as the first Asian and Chinese tennis player to enter a Grand Slam singles final in 2011 Australian Open. Later in June, Li was crowned as the first-ever Grand Slam title for China and Asia in the French Open final, downing defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 7-6(0).
Li was voted the Best Female Athlete, beating the other four candidates, including diving world champion Wu Minxia, table tennis world champion Ding Ning, swimming worlds gold medalist Jiao Liuyang and world discus winner Li Yanfeng.
"I'm now in Melbourne, preparing for the Australia Open to be open here on January 16. I'm happy that I'm almost 30, but I'm still hungry for winning and still focusing on tennis," Li Na said through a VCR showed on the ceremony.
The 20-year-old Sun snatched the Best Male Athlete as he swept the men's 800 and 1,500 meters freestyle gold medals at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai in July. Sun clocked 14 minutes 34.14 seconds in 1,500m to break the world record of 14:34:56 set by Australian Grant Hackett 10 years ago.
Sun, who is training in Gold Coast in Australia, said through telephone: "I'm honored to have this award because the other four candidates also performed very well. Though I'm in Australia, my parents take the award for me at the ceremony. The award will boost my confidence and winning desire in 2012. To be honest, my new year wish is to win at the London Olympic Games."
Liu Xiang, men's 110m hurdles champion at the Athens Olympic Games and runner-up of World Championships 2011, was a surprised winner to take the Judging Committee's Special Award.
"It was a shock for me! I've never thought to win this award though I've won many honors in past years. I felt sad and sorrow when I watched out many athletes' retirement. However, I don't want to retire. I hope I can run in a happy mood as long as I can."
Wang Haibin was named the Best Coach of the year as he led his men's foil team to crown at the World Fencing Championships. China's women volleyball team was awarded the Best Team.
With their men's doubles title at the worlds, Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng won the Best Pair and chess world champion Hou Yifan retained her title as the Best non-Olympic athlete. Short-track speed-skater Fan Kexin was the winner of the Best Rookie.
Former Winter Olympic champion Yang Yang, now an IOC member and a launcher of Champions Funding for retired athletes in 2011, received the honor of Sports Special Contribution.
The annual CCTV Sports Awards, recognized as the Chinese version of the Laureus World Sports Awards, is taken as the premier honors on the Chinese sporting calendar. The 11 titles came from the votes cast by 120 sports specialists.