Asian athletes have made a significant splash this year, from major achievements in Formula 1 racing to rookies getting the chance to prove themselves on the main circuit in their respective sports. Let’s take a look at some of this year’s biggest accomplishments and milestones among Asian Pacific Islander athletes.
Rui Hachimura is Traded to the City of Angels
After becoming the first Japanese player selected in the first round of the NBA draft in 2019, Rui Hachimura has since made a name for himself showcasing his skill set on the court. Born in Toyama, Japan, the 25-year-old forward made his NBA debut with the Washington Wizards before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this year. Since joining the Lakers, Hachimura immediately made an impact, becoming one of the team’s key players in their 2023 playoff run. With the performance he displayed in the short amount of time he’s spent in the City of Angels, Hachimura earned a contract extension this past offseason to remain with the Lakers with the hopes of competing for a championship title.
Rose Zhang Scores Victory in LPGA Debut
Making her LPGA Tour appearance at this year’s Mizuho Americas Open, Rose Zhang became the first woman to win in her LPGA debut since Beverly Hanson in 1951. Currently enrolled at Stanford University, the Chinese American golfer made a name for herself by becoming the first woman to win back-to-back individual NCAA titles at the Division I level, and also led her team to a national title last year. Adding to her resume, the 20-year-old became one of five rookies to join Team USA and participate at this year’s Solheim Cup, where they would unfortunately fall short to Team Europe in the final round.
Anthony Volpe Shine in Rookie Season with the New York Yankees
Filipino American baseball player Anthony Volpe made his MLB debut this year with one of baseball’s most iconic teams, the New York Yankees. Selected 30th overall by the Yankees during the 2019 MLB draft, the 22-year-old shortstop started his career in the minor leagues before getting the call-up to the majors. Securing a spot on the opening day roster for the 2023 MLB season, Volpe has made a case to remain as the Yankees’ shortstop of the future. Becoming the first rookie in Yankees history to notch a 20-20 season (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases) and sporting highlight defensive plays nightly, Volpe ended his rookie season with a solid .209 batting average with 21 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases.
Bianca Bustamante Becomes First Filipina Driver to Place Podium in New Race Series
F4 driver Bianca Bustamante burst onto the global motorsport scene this year, making history as the first Filipina to win an F1 Academy race with Prema Racing. At 18 years old, Bustamante made waves when it was announced she would be competing in the newly formed all-female racing series created by Formula 1. Bustamante was born in the Philippines and spent part of her life in the Bay Area, competing in kart contests since the age of 5. She made the huge step to racing in single-seaters in 2022. Her resume currently includes two top-10 finishes in the UAE Formula 4 Circuit and four podiums throughout her professional career. Recently, with the inaugural F1 Academy season coming to a close, Bustamante announced she has signed to McLaren as the first female driver in their Driver Development programme.
Los Angeles Dodgers Sign Top International Pitching Prospect Hyun-Suk Jang
The Los Angeles Dodgers sent waves throughout the league when they signed international top KBO pitching prospect Hyun-Suk Jang. The 19-year-old Korean right-handed pitcher was projected to be the first overall pick in the upcoming KBO draft, but ultimately decided to take his talents to the MLB. Jang joins the company of other great Asian Dodgers pitchers like Chan Ho Park, Hideo Nomo, and Hyun-jin Ryu. During his high school career, he held an impressive earned run average of 1.85, striking out 102 batters in 68 ⅓ innings. Dodger fans are excited for Jang’s growth as he prepares to make his major league debut, which could come in the next two to three years depending on how quickly he develops his pitch.
Philippines National Women’s Football Team Make History at 2023 FIFA World Cup
The Philippines National Women’s Football Team made their debut at this year’s FIFA World Cup. With little expectation riding on the shoulders of the Filipinas, they defied all odds, securing their first FIFA World Cup win against host country New Zealand. Forward Sarina Bolden also cemented her place in history as the first Team Philippines member to score a goal for her country in the tournament. Despite not making it out of pool play, the team made a solid first impression in their debut outing and now looks ahead to the next World Cup. Along with their first appearance at this year’s World Cup, the Philippines competed in the 19th annual Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. The team’s historic debut in the event came to an end against Japan.
Yuto Horigome Claims Gold at X Games 2023
In 2018, the Street League Skateboarding Championship Tour crowned its first Japanese winner in Yuto Horigome. Three years later, he would go on to become the first person to win gold in the inaugural Olympic men’s street skateboarding event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Horigome has been competing professionally since he was 15, rising through the ranks thanks to his ability to tackle large rails and gaps. At this year’s X Games, Horigome once again put his unique style on display, winning gold in the men’s skateboarding street and best trick events, becoming the first skater to win in both disciplines since Rodil de Araújo Jr. in 2002. Horigome looks to continue his success at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games, where he hopes to take home his second Olympic gold medal.
Son Heung-Min Is Named Tottenham’s Newest Captain
Loved across the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur’s forward Son Heung-Min continues to add to his list of accomplishments after he was named the team’s newest captain this season moving forward. “Sonny,” as he’s affectionately known throughout the league, is also the team captain for the South Korea national team. Winning the Premier League Golden Boot in the 2021-2022 season with a career-high 23 goals, he became the first Asian player to reach 100 career goals in the Premier League as well. The Hotspurs are currently ranked fourth in the Premier League standings with an 8-2 record, and look to secure their next League Cup win.