China continued its domination until the end of this the fourth and last day. Japan recovered some lost ground. Most of all, countries like Qatar, Saudia Arabia and even Syria and Oman made their mark with gold medals. This, in short, is the story of the 12th Asian Junior Athletics Championships which ended on Tuesday (18 July) in Macau after four days of intense rivalry.
While some of the times, distances and heights were not as fast, far and as high as one might have been led to believe they would have been based on the athletes' PBs, the keen competition among the young competitors made these championships exciting for the crowd at the Macau Stadium.
China's domination, clear from Day 1, was felt right to the end. In the men's 10,000m Race Walk, Bai Xuejin won with his effort of 43:48.91, ahead of the Japanese duo of Hiroyuki Hirano (45:43.66) and Yusuke Suzuki (47:06.99).
Wang Zheng and Wang Yang made it a fine one-two for China in the women's Hammer Throw with their distances of 60.16m and 59.33m respectively. Galina Mityaeva of Tajikistan was third with her effort of 52.55m.
In one of the best races of the championships, Huang Hao of China took the gold in the men's 110m Hurdles in a very creditable time of 13.64, ahead of Malaysia's Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (13.84 secs) and another Chinese Yan Xu (13.99). Significantly, all three went faster than the championship record, a sign perhaps that Liu Xiang's phenomenal success in this event at the world level has given it a boost among the young in this part of the world.
Adding to the Chinese gold rush were its women athletes, Zhang Hongpei (14.09) in the 100m Hurdles, Li Li (16.78m) in the Shot Put and Wei Xiaobin (4968 points) in the Heptathlon. Behind these wins, in the 100m Hurdles, Uzbekistan's Natalya Asanova (14.24) and Malaysia's Azizah Asanova (14.59) were second and third. In the Shot Put, the silver went to Oksana Kot (14.94m) of Uzbekistan, while the bronze was collected by Yoshida Izumi (14.35m) of Japan. In the Heptathlon, Olga Lapina (4882 points) and Anastasya Kudinova (4734 points), both of Kazakhstan, won the silver and bronze respectively.
Completing the Chinese domination were their women's 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay teams. In the sprint relay, the Chinese girls won in 44.95, followed by Japan (45.66) and Thailand (46.49). In the long relay, the Chinese girls (3:40.37) proved too strong for Thailand (3:44.61) and India (3:45.36).
While Chinese women dominated the relays, it was a different scenario for China in the men's relays. In the 4x100m relay, Thailand tasted success with its boys combining well to win in 40.30, ahead of Oman (40.56) and Taipei (40.67). In the 4x400m relay, Japan was first in 3:10.09, followed by Saudi Arabia (3:11.46) and Thailand (3:13.51).
Japan also had success in the women's 1500m.While this race produced modest times, it gave the crowd one of the championships' most thrilling moments. Japan's Akane Ohta won in 4:30.16, narrowly defeating China's Liu Fang (4:30.17) and another Japanese Aki Matsunaga (4:31.09).
Bahrain and Qatar too enjoyed their fair share of highs at the tail end of the championships. In the men's Triple Jump, Bahrain's Salman Mohamed, one of this region's most promising young athletes, won with his distance of 16.42m, ahead of Thailand's Kongnil Varunyoo (15.82m) and Vietnam's Ngyyen Manh Hieu (15.68m). Qatar had success in the men's 1500m, courtesy of Ali Thamer Kamal (3:49.74). Japan's Daiki Sato (3:50.89) took the silver, while Iran's Rostami Mohammadsaleh (3:55.07) clinched the bronze.
Overall, the meet ended with a respectable distribution of medals despite the prominence of Chinese athletes. For athletes like Syria's Ghofrar Al Mouhmad, who shocked the Chinese when she won the women's 400m Hurdles in 57.66, and Oman's Mohammed Alrawahi, who took the men's 400m in 47.40 ahead of the much-fancied Japanese, the meet has been a success in more ways than one. This trend in which athletes from more countries enjoy moments in the sun will boost the standards of athletics in Asia, said Maurice Nicholas, Secretary General of Asian Athletics Association.
Chua Chong Jin for the IAAF