Hits and misses: The year that was in Taiwan sports
CNATAIPEI, Taiwan -- 2012 was a fruitful year for many Taiwanese athletes in the international sports arena, from Major League Baseball in the United States to the Summer Olympics in London, but questions remain over whether those performances can be sustained in 2013.
February 10, 2013, 12:32 am TWN
The two athletes with perhaps the biggest breakout seasons were both Kaohsiung natives, baseball pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and tennis player Hsieh Su-wei.
After pitching at the highest professional level in Japan for years, Chen made his major league debut in April for the Baltimore Orioles.
The fifth Taiwanese pitcher to take the mound in the major leagues, Chen won more games as a rookie (12) than the other four pitchers combined.
The 27-year-old was also the Orioles' first 12-game winner in five seasons, finishing with a 4.02 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 192 2/3 innings.
In October, he outdueled Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, one of the best postseason pitchers in major league history, to lead the Orioles to their first playoff victory in 15 years.
“I'm from Taiwan. I pitched in Japan and I'm a rookie here ... I never thought of pitching a postseason, and this is really a big dream for me,” Chen said after the victory.
Of Taiwan's many major leaguers, Chen seems the most disciplined and committed to his craft and the least vulnerable to injury, and he is a lock for a spot in the Orioles' rotation in 2013.
But he will have to avoid a potential sophomore slump and continue to get help from a team that was an astounding — some would say lucky — 29-9 in one run games to match his performance of 2012.
Another athlete in the spotlight this year will be Hsieh, who rose to 25th in the women's singles rankings in October.
That was the highest ranking ever attained by any Taiwanese tennis player — male or female — beating the record set by the now retired Wang Shi-ting, who was ranked 26th in women's singles in 1993.
Ending 2011 ranked 172nd in singles, the 26-year-old veteran engineered the stunning turnaround by dedicating herself to training and hiring retired Australian tennis player Paul McNamee as her coach.
She won the first two WTA Tour singles titles of her career at the BMW Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur in March and the Guangzhou International Women's Open in mid-September and also had her best showing ever at Wimbledon, reaching the third round before losing to former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova of Russia.
She had hoped to carry the momentum into early 2013 and was well-positioned as the 26th seed at the Australian Open, the first time a Taiwanese tennis player was seeded at a Grand Slam event.
But she came down with the flu prior to the tournament, leaving her in a weakened state, and she lost in the second round to former U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
How well she recovers could very well determine how her season goes because she has over 400 ranking points to defend in tournaments played by the end of February, including the Malaysian Open at the end of the month.