As predicted, the final of the women's 400m hurdles provided the highlight of the 5th day in the 10th Chinese National Games in Nanjing.
Teenager challenges Huang Xiaoxiao
22-year-old Huang Xiaoxiao, the top Chinese in the event who was fifth at the World Championships in Helsinki, won the contest with a personal best 54.18, the sixth fastest performance of the year. But it didn't come without a fierce challenge.
Huang, winner of the Asian Championship title, suffered a rare domestic defeat at the national championships to 18-year-old Wang Xing. And here too, Wang was looking to pull off yet another upset. The teenager, representing Hunan province, led from the outset until Huang battled back over the final hurdle to take the dramatic win. Huang was runner-up in 54.40, knocking a full three-tenths of a second from the previous World junior best of 54.70, set by American Lashinda Demus during the 2002 World Junior Championships.
Wang has progressed quite evenly since winning the national high school title in 2002 where she clocked 58.34. In 2003, she finished second to Huang at the Chinese City Games in 56.54 before lowering her personal best to 55.79 in April 2004. Some injuries set her back in the latter part of that year, but came back in 2005 to surprise Huang at the national championships with her 55.39 PB win.
For the winner, who was second at the last National Games, it was the second title of the week, adding the hurdle title to her win in the flat 400 earlier in the week. She will be looking to add yet another in the 4x400 relay.
21-year-old Zhang Rongrong took the bronze with a personal best of 55.91, barely edging Yao Yuehua (55.94), who was third in the 2001 Games.
National record for Meng in the men's 400m Hurdles
In the men's 400m hurdles final, a pair of medallists from the 2001 Games, Zhang Shibao and Meng Yan, battled it out for the win, resulting in a new national record.
The 24-year-old Meng, who was third in 2001 but surprisingly eliminated prior to the finals at the national championships this year, bounced back from that disappointment to take top honours in 49.19, a massive .65 better than his personal best, and in the process, knocking .06 from the previous national record of 49.25 set by Tan Chunhua in 1998.
Zhang, the Asian Championships bronze medallist and national champion, settled for second in 49.75, repeating his runner-up spot from the last National Games.
23-year-old Zhu Zhi recorded his first sub-50 second race to take the bronze in 49.88s. The 28-year-old Tan watched his record being broken in close range, finishing a distant fourth in 50.46.
Middle distance double for junior Liu Qing
Liu Qing nabbed her second gold after a personal best 1:59.74 win in the 800, the fastest time by a junior in 2005. The 19-year-old was handed the 1500m gold following the disqualification of Xing Huina earlier in the week. In her last double attempt in international competition, Liu was third and fourth respectively in the 1500 and 800 at the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey. At home, Liu also claimed the same double win at this year's national championships, and is clearly the brightest promise of Chinese middle distance running.
18-year-old Yang Xiaocui recorded a big personal best to finish second (2:02.64), with 2003 City Games winner Yang Wei third with a season's best 2:02.83.
In the men's 800m final, the fastest Chinese this season, Li Xiangyu, lived up to expectations to win handily in 1:48.21. Li Guangming was second (1:49.26, season's best) with Tang Baojun, runner-up in the 1500, finishing third (1:49.58) for his second medal of the Games.
Qin completes sprint double
Another double winner on Day 5 was Qin Wangping, who took the 200m title in 23.50, a few days after her win in the shorter dash. Liu Li was second in 23.69, with Hou Xiufen taking the bronze in 23.95.
Yang Yaozu was an easy pick in the men's half lap, and his win was very clear as well. The 24-year-old from Shanghai, who had been training with Baylor University coach Clyde Hart in Waco, Texas, earlier this summer, eased to the win in 20.73. Wang Chengliang took the silver in 21.11, while 19-year-old Tang Yik Chun grabbed the first medal for Hong Kong with his 21.15 third place finish.
Triple jumpers battle the wind
Strong headwinds hampered what was to be a contentious battle in the women's Triple Jump. During most jumps, competitors faced winds ranging from three to five metres-per-second. 25-year-old Huang Qiuyan, from Guangxi, battled best to take an incredible third successive win at the National Games.
In 1997 she won with a World Youth Record of 14.57 at 17; in 2001 she broke the Asian record with her winning leap of 14.72; this year, despite the awful conditions, she was able to find an nearly windless moment for her 14.54 winning effort. She won the competition by a wide 58-centimetre margin, ahead of Wang Ying, who managed a 13.96 best. 32-year-old Wu Lingmei took the bronze (13.92). 19-year-old Xie Limei, the winner at the Asian Championships with a 14.38 personal best, was disappointed with her fourth place finish at 13.76, although she had to cope with a 4.2 m/s headwind during her best jump.
Liaoning athlete Qi Haifeng was far from his best during the second day of the Decathlon, perhaps conserving his energy for future competitions. Despite a lackluster closing day, the national record holder with 8,290 points (Götzis, 2005) still took his second straight title with a 7,854 point tally, well ahead of 19-year-old Yu Bin, from Sichuan province. The Asian junior champion from 2004, Yu scored a personal best of 7,705 points, including a fine javelin effort of 66.41.
5000 the key contest on final day
The final day of the National Games will feature the 5000m finals for both men and women.
In the women's race, Xing Huina will be looking to bounce back from her disqualification in the 1500m final and may rethink her finishing strategy. 16-year-old Bai Xue, the 5000 and 10,000 winner at the Asian Championships, will be the most likely challenger.
In the men's race 20-year-old Chen Mingfu, the clear winner in the 10,000, will be chasing a double as well. Chen won his heat easily, but will face a challenge in the final. Other favourites including Sun Wenyong, runner-up in the steeplechase, ational champion Zhang Yunshan, reigning National Games winner Zheng Kai, and Han Gang, who was third in the 10,000.
The only field event remaining on the programme is the men's Triple Jump. With competition expected to be fierce, Zhou Zhenxian's national record of 17.34 may be threatened, should the conditions be more favourable for the men. In addition, all relay finals along with the men's 50 km Walk will be contested.
Shandong province tops the athletics medal table with seven golds and 16 total medals, with Jiangsu second with 6 golds and 19 total medals. Jiangsu is still at the top of the point competition with 334 points. Shandong is second with 308.2.
Elsewhere, Chinese media are reporting that Sun Yingjie tested positive for a banned substance after the final of the 10,000m on Monday night, where she finished second.
"The IAAF has noted the media reports," said IAAF spokesman Nick Davies, "but is waiting for an official confirmation and full documentation related to this alleged doping offence from the Chinese Athletics Federation and the relevant laboratory. Once this has been received, we will consider this case in accordance with our usual procedures."
(* pending ratification)
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF