The 7th City Games athletics competition was opened on Thursday (20) evening in Nanchang, the Capital of Jiangxi Province.
Previous versions of this competition served as a step towards the world elite for several former and present Chinese stars. The 1996 5000m Olympic champion and 3000m and 10,000m World record holder, Wang Junxia, competed in the third edition in 1995 narrowly losing to Jiang Bo, the former 5000m World record holder. In 1999 one Liu Xiang appeared in the 110m Hurdles heats as a 16-year-old not making it to the final, but four years later everyone knew who he was and Liu went on to set a still standing competition record 13.31 in Changsha for the win. The previous Games in Wuhan in 2007 brought forward Bai Xue, who went on to win the World Championships Marathon in Berlin two years later.
The 2011 Games mark a new era in the athletics competitions. The first three Games were an under-23 competition, but in 1999 a move was made to allow only athletes under 21 years to compete. The Nanchang Games are the first real junior competition with athlete born in 1992-1995 allowed into the competition with junior implements used just as in World Junior Championships. With this move the City Games has become arguably the best national junior competition in the world.
World Youth medallists in fine shape
Although this is a junior competition, the biggest impact was made by youth athletes, many of whom reached the medal podium in Lille at the IAAF World Youth Championships earlier this summer.
The best competition in the first three days was the men’s Long Jump which became the best ever junior competition in the Long Jump looking at the results of the first four athletes. Just 16 years old, the 2011 World Youth Champion Lin Qing started with a big personal best 7.91m in round one surpassing the 7.83m winning mark from Lille. But surprisingly the competition was not over as three others made big improvements during the competition really challenging the young star. Lin did win jumping to a 7.95m personal best in round two in windless conditions to equal the 2011 world youth leader. The best four were within just nine centimetres. Zhang Yu added 35cm to his best for 7.92m and second place. 2011 Chinese Junior Champion Fu Haitao, a 16.33m triple jumper too, was third with a 7.89m PB and Chen Changhang also reached a personal best in fourth place with 7.86m. This is the best ever wind legal result in a junior competition which was not enough for the medal podium. Only once has there been a better mark for place four, at the Annecy World Junior Championships, but Bulgarian Krasimir Argirov’s 7.87m was wind assisted (+2.7) then.
In the women’s Shot Put another World Youth champion, Guo Tianqian, emerged as the winner with a good result. The 16-year-old, easily the most promising talent in this event, added 54cm to her previous PB winning with a 16.98m result, the world junior and youth leader for 2011. Gu Siyu set a PB for silver with 16.59m and Dong Yangzi was third (16.46m).
In the Triple Jump World Youth silver medallist Li Jingyu, also 16, topped the field with a 13.68m personal best adding 11cm to her previous PB from Lille. In the competition where the first six set personal bests Chen Mudan lost only by one centimetre to finish second with 13.67m with Lin Yan third with 13.44m.
Another silver medallist from Lille and not a surprise, 16-year-old Wang Chunyu has a chance to become a winner on Sunday evening in the 800m. She beat her Lille final PB 2:03.23 in style in the heats finishing with 2:02.96 and becoming the fourth youth athlete under 2:03 this season.
Unknowns emerge in women’s distance events
While some athletes had already made a name for themselves by winning medals at the IAAF World Youth Championships, in the women’s distance races the winners have been totally unknown. In the 1500m Guan Yue from city of Shenyang in Liaoning Province, came to the meet with a 4:38 PB, but in the final she started with a nearly four minute pace leaving others far behind finishing in 4:11.25 winning by almost nine seconds. The 19-year-old Guan will be looking for a double in the 800m having run 2:07.80 in the heats, but of course in that race starting fast will do nothing as Wang Chunyu ran almost five seconds faster in her heat.
In very similar fashion another Shenyang athlete raced to a clear win in the 3000m Steeplechase. Seventeen-year-old Li Jiayi had no known results for this event, but her start was phenomenal. After just 200 metres into the race she already had a lead of 50 metres to the last athlete and at 800m she was running at a sub-nine minute pace with a lead of more than 50 metres on the second placed athlete. After this it did show on her face that this kind of pace was too much to take, but after reaching 1000m in 3:04.18 and 2000m in 6:23.34 she went on to win her first 3000m Steeplechase race in 9:56.68.
But Li was not done as two days after this race she took full command of the 5000m final as well. Having intelligently saved energy in the heats finishing in fifth, the last straight qualifier in her heat, she again gave the others no chance whatsoever. The race was much slower in comparison to the steeple, but Li emerged as an easy double winner with a 15:43.71 personal best and could easily be tipped to be a player in the 2012 World Junior Championships. Another promising runner, Liu Zhuang, 16, cut two seconds off her personal best set in the last month’s National Championships to finish in second place in 15:54.60.
Another double winner
17-year-old Xu Xiangchao became another double winner within just a 12-hour window. The 400m Hurdles specialist was a surprise winner in the flat 400m final where he started with a fiery pace looking to dip under 46 seconds. Although he faded a bit in the last 30 metres, he still won comfortably in 46.55, cutting 0.7 seconds off his previous best. In the 400m Hurdles there was no competition the next morning. Xu set a good personal best of 49.87 for the win and his first ever sub-50 second clocking and could also be a factor at the Barcelona World Juniors next summer.
In other events Zheng Dongsheng topped the men’s 100m in a fast season’s best 10.35. Fast finishing Hong Kong athlete Ng Ka Fung had a strong final 20 metres, but missed on catching up with the winner to take silver in a personal best of 10.40. Sixteen-year-old Li Qi also set a big PB 10.48 for third place.
In the men’s 1500m the final was slow and there was a big upset in the race, too. The most promising middle distance runner in China, 18-year-old Teng Haining did not pay attention as Sun Lele kicked early with 350 metres to go. Teng did eventually almost catch up with Sun with 100 metres to go, but Sun, with a 3:45.83 PB this year, surprised by keeping himself in front of the young star to win in 3:51.03. 800m specialist Teng, who has already run 3:42.05 this season, was second in 3:51.23. Teng finished in second place in Shenzhen at the Universiade in August setting a 1:46.62 national junior record for the 800m (and missed the NR by just 0.18) and also finished in fourth place in the 1500m at the same meet.
Li Meijuan was an easy winner in the women’s 100m final in 11.57 and the 19-year-old will be looking for another win in the 200m. Zhou Xiaoxue won the Long Jump with a 6.38m personal best and Wang Yingying topped the Hammer Throw standings with 63.42m.
In a good junior Heptathlon competition Wang Yunhan set a 5523 personal best adding almost 300 points to her previous best (5235). Pre-competition favourite Wang Qingling was a close second with 5492 points.
In the heats there were a couple of interesting marks. Fourth in the 100m, 18-year-old Xie Zhenye will be looking for the win in the 200m. He clocked a fast 20.88 for the fastest in heats and has already run a PB 20.79 this season. In the men’s 110m Hurdles Lu Jialeng surprised with a 13.32 personal best followed by the winner of another heat, Wang Dongqiang, in 13.55 PB.
The competition concludes on Monday (24).
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF