There is no doubting the determination of the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) to advance their sport in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. After consulting many international coaches and athletes over recent years, the most famous being World 200m and 400m record holder Michael Johnson (USA), to help their technical development, the latest to be signed up is 1976 Olympic 200m champion and 100m silver medallist Don Quarrie from Jamaica.
Well, true to say Quarrie will be returning to China, as the announcement last week that the 55-year-old, with the approval of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA), had been invited by the CAA to assist the development of Chinese sprinting, comes nearly a year after Quarrie made an initial 10 day trip to a National Training Camp in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.
Quarrie, the multiple World record breaking 100m and 200m sprinter whose 9.9 (1976) and 19.8 (1975) were the last officially ratified hand-timed marks for the two distances, will assist in the Chinese team’s final preparations ahead of the 15th Asian Games which begin in Doha on 1 December. The athletics competition schedule commences on 7 December.
As a part of the initial reciprocal agreement between the two nations, Jamaican athletes will be invited to China to participate in warm-up races prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
China put in their best ever overall Olympic performance in Athens, ending up with 32 golds and 63 medals to rank second to the United States in the medal table. Specifically in Athletics they also topped all previous efforts with the victories by Xing Huina (women’s 10,000m) and Liu Xiang (men’s 110m Hurdles) their best ever showing.
Xiang’s win was the first ever gold by a Chinese male track and field athlete with Zhu Jianhua’s High Jump bronze in 1983, the previous best performance. The Race Walking golds of Chen Yueling (10km -1992) and Wang Liping (20km- 2000), and Wang Junxia’s 5000m win in 1996, were the sum total of China’s victory tally prior to Athens. China also brought home six other top-8 point scoring performances from Athens underlining their long awaited but now growing power within the Olympics’ number one sport.
More recently at 11th IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing, Chinese athletes topped the medal table with 17, with only Kenya (15) above them on the overall standing given that they had 6 gold medals to China’s 5 titles.
So even without mentioning any further the outstanding achievements of a certain Mr. Liu Xiang it is clear that track and field athletics is on the ascendant in China, and the CAA is proactively trying to assist its development.
Prior to the Quarrie’s involvement the most famous individual coaching collaboration had been with the multiple World and Olympic champion Michael Johnson. That cooperation with the CAA started in 2004, with Johnson holding a training camp in Beijing prior to the Athens Games, after which a small group of Chinese sprinters travelled to Waco, Texas, to gain further experience under the tutelage of Johnson and his coach Clyde Hart.
The current Chinese dealings with Jamaica are a part of a wider set of multi-national sporting agreements that China has put in place ahead of the 2008 Games. In the autumn of 2004 sporting memorandums were drawn up with Australia, Britain and Kenya for the sharing of information on sports science, the exchange of coaches and experts, and the opportunity for athletes to compete in each others countries.
Chris Turner for the IAAF