Taiwan is definitely not a sporting country. You might imagine people in Chile – a country with an even smaller population – bleeding football (soccer) day and night, glued to the television set during the World Cup and rattling off international players’ names as easily as those of South American dictators. In Taiwan, there is no zealous commitment to any athletic event.
The most popular sport in Taiwan by far is baseball, and it has the potential to take off as the national sporting obsession of Taiwan. The Japanese propensity for the old American stick-and-a-ball game is said to have rubbed off on the island while it was a under Japanese rule in the early 20th century. Taiwan has its own Major League, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL). There are four teams in total, the most popular being the Brother Elephants, based out of Taipei City. The remaining three represent Kaoshiung, Tainan, and Taichung, respectively. Going to a CPBL game is a pretty fascinating cultural experience, where regimented cheering, lack of drinking culture and surprisingly enjoyable baseball come together as a reminder that, yes, you are in Asia.
The popularity of baseball has been heightened by the fact that Taiwan has recently exported a few of her brightest stars to the top of the top, the MLB in North America. The most famous player in Taiwan is unquestionably Chien-Ming Wang, a pitcher for the Washington Nationals. In spite of the fact that he has been traded, young Taiwanese boys proudly wear his former jersey from his time pitching for the Yankees.
If a runner-up to baseball had to be picked, it would most likely be basketball. In fact, though there is no Taiwanese equivalent of Chien-Ming Wang acting as ambassador to the NBA, walking around the streets at night suggests that Taiwan may have more “feed me the rock” than “swing battah battah”. The influence of Yao Ming shouldn’t be disregarded, either, a powerful symbol for all those East Asians who feel like they get racially profiled as scrawny and unathletic.
Golf & Tenis
Taiwanese show great pride when their countrymen and women make a name for Formosa abroad. Taiwan-born golfer Yani Tseng has been making a name for herself in the LPGA. She was awarded Rookie of the Year in 2008 and won the 2010 British Open. Also, at Wimbledon in 2010, Lu Yen-Hsun became the first Taiwanese player to make it to the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam tennis tournament.
In terms of leisure sports in Taiwan, cycling reigns supreme. Taiwan is one of the world’s largest bicycle producers, home to household name Giant. The small size of the island of Taiwan, along with its diverse landscapes and rolling mountains, make it an ideal stop for many cyclists. Also, for those of the more hardcore variety, Taiwan’s expertise about professional-grade bikes gives you reason to believe all of the parts, repairs and help you might need will be readily available.
Events that may be of particular interest to athletic residents or travelers to Taiwan are: The Taroko Gorge Marathon and Half-Marathon, the annual swim across Sun-Moon Lake, the Tour de Taiwan and the Taiwan Cycling Festival. Check online for more information on all of these, and don’t forget to buy tickets to that Brother Elephants game!