Learn Chinese terms for sports


I thought we’d take a break from Chinese idioms for a while to give some time for the phrases you’ve learned so far to sink in. As everybody’s heart is probably at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, let’s see if we can pick up a few sports-related terms in Chinese.

奥林匹克 (àolínpǐkè) is the transliteration of “Olympic”. The Olympic Games are called 奥运会 (àoyùnhuì), which is an abbreviation of 奥林匹克运动会 (àolínpǐkè yùndònghuì). 运动 (yùndòng) means sports, exercise, motion, movement, or a drive, and (huì) is a meeting or a gathering.

网球 (wǎngqiú) is tennis. It also refers to a tennis ball.
桌球 (zhuōqiú), as you may have surmised, is table tennis, which is also known as 乒乓球(pīngpāngqiú), or ping-pong. This term also refers to the ping-pong balls. The ping-pong paddles are called 乒乓球拍 (pīngpāngqiú pāi).

羽毛球 (yǔmáoqiú) is the game of badminton. It also refers to the shuttlecock. For short, you could say 羽球 (yǔqiú). Notice how (yǔ) looks like a pair of feathered wings.

(lán) is a basket. See the bamboo word radical at the top? Naturally, basketball is called 篮球 (lánqiú). 运球 (yùnqiú) is to dribble, and 带球走步 (dài qiú zǒubù traveling in basketball) is a no-no.

田径 (tiánjìng) is track and field.

跳远 (tiàoyuǎn) is doing a broad jump. 跳高 (tiàogāo) is doing a high jump. 撑竿跳 (chēnggāntáo) is pole-vaulting.

游泳 (yóuyǒng) is to swim. Which style do you think is more difficult, 自由式 (zìyóu shì) or 蝴蝶式 (húdié shì)?

(pái) is a row. This word also serves as a verb that means to arrange in order.
排骨 (páigǔ) are spareribs, literally a row of bones. 牛排 (niúpái) are beefsteaks. I guess 排球 (páiqiú volleyball) is so named because the players stand in rows on either side of the net. Please note that 女排 (nǚ pái) does not mean female ribs, but rather women’s volleyball.

举重 (jǔzhòng) is weight lifting.

比赛 (bǐsài) is a match. You can also use this term as a verb that means to compete in a match. 竞赛 (jìngsài) also means a competition or a contest. Therefore, 球赛 (qiúsài) would be a ball game, and 网球赛 (wǎngqiúsài) would be a tennis match.

At the Olympics, the 冠军 (guàngūn champion) wins a 金牌 (jīnpái gold medal). The 亚军 (yàjūn runner-up) gets a 银牌 (yínpái).

We all know that Michael Phelps has bested his younger competitors at the London Games to add a few more gold medals to his mind-boggling collection of Olympic medals. He now owns 22 of those in all, 18 of which are gold. As my brother puts it, using a well-known Chinese saying,

姜还是老的辣.
Jiāng háishì lǎo de là.
In the end, experience beats youth.
(Mature ginger roots are spicier than young ones.)

If you manage to learn all of the above words this week, plus the names of a few other sports not mentioned here, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve a medal for the Olympics of the mind.

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