Quiz question: Which player has scored the most points and tries in the history of the Hong Kong Sevens?
A. Ben Gollings, England
B. Waisale Serevi, Fiji
C. Jonah Lomu, New Zealand
D. Santiago Gomez-Cora, Argentina
E. Zhang Zhiqiang, China
For all the column inches lavished on the first four names in the list, with 202 points and 24 tries, Zhang Zhiqiang, otherwise known as Johnny Zhang, is the leading scorer at Sevens rugby's most celebrated event.
Zhang is also without question China's best known rugby player and has made the Hong Kong tournament his second home over the years. As well as playing for a local HK club early in his career, the talisman has played for his country at the last nine tournaments.
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Occasionally, he has even helped China upset the form book. In 2006, he inspired his team to the Bowl title and since then they have shocked the likes of Scotland and current Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Wales.
“The tournament in Hong Kong has a huge impact on how rugby will grow and develop in China,” said Zhang. “Due to the recent changes regarding the make-up of international rugby tournaments, China only participates in the Hong Kong Sevens, so it is very important for the national team to do well there.”
Zhang's own path to success started at the Beijing Agricultural College. He had never played rugby before he joined as a teenager but instantly took to the game - despite the objections of his family, who had to travel 11 hours to see him play.
If his mother in particular fretted about her son playing rugby, the Chinese Rugby Union immediately saw potential in Zhang and sent him to clubs all over the world to improve his knowledge of the game.
After an initial stint in Hong Kong, he played at Sunnybank in Australia and Leicester Tigers in the UK. Now back in China, he is putting his acquired knowledge to good use, as one of the coaches of the national team and also at the place where his rugby education began all those years ago, at the Beijing Agricultural College.
“The first team in China was formed at the College in December 1990 and I believe we lead the way as far as rugby in China is concerned,” he said. “We are certainly the number one team in China - over 80 percent of the national team come from the college.”
Zhang is determined to play once more in Hong Kong and will retire after the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010, but is keen to stay involved in the sport he loves and is desperate for the game to grow.
If Sevens were to gain readmission to the Olympics, he is sure that desire can become a reality.
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“We need the government to take notice of rugby and the only sports that receive funding are the ones in the Olympic Games. Therefore if rugby can be allowed into the Olympics it will have a massive impact on the sport and that can only be good for the development of the game in China.”
Player Quotes of Support
“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.” – Shane Williams, Wales
“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England
“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand
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