24 March 200425yearold Han Yucheng, from Liaoning Province, was the biggest star of the Chinese National Walking Championships & Olympic Trials. Held last weekend (20/21/22 March) in Guangzhou’s Olympic Centre, which had been the venue for the 9th National Games in 2001.
Han, who comes from the same province where most of China's best walkers hailed in 1990's, only competed in a national level competition for the first time last April. During 2003 he went on to win the Asian Championships in Manila, but his progress after that has been fast.
On Saturday 20 March he won the 20km Race Walk in 1:19:30, a personal best, with 20-year-old Zhu Hongjun, who was the world leader in 20km before the World Championships last year, in second (1:20:10).
China's third 20km competitor in Athens Olympics will be Liu Yunfeng.
Asian 50km Race Walking record
On Monday morning Han returned to establish a real cracker of a performance over 50km. Han took off 15:35 off his previous personal best, which was his debut over 50km on 14 April 2003, 3:54:45, to become the first Chinese under 3:40 on the roads.
His 50km winning time 3:39:10 is more than two minutes quicker than Zhao Yongsheng's earlier Chinese record of 3:41:20, which stood for almost nine years (30 April 1995), and was quicker than Kazakstan’s Sergey Korepanov’s Asian mark (3:39:22) set in 1999.
Xing Shucai and Yu Chaohong will be the two others joining Han in Athens for the 50km distance.
Women’s Olympic 20km trial
The women's Olympic trial race was all about Wang Liping. The reigning Olympic champion gave birth to a baby in November and it looked impossible for her to regain the form needed to qualify so quickly, especially because China has so many top class walkers, but Wang proved everybody wrong.
Wang, who is married to Zou Menghui, who was the winner of the 50km walk in the prestigious 8th National Games in Shanghai 1997 (3:48:12), recorded a time of 1:28:58 for the second place.
The race was won by Song Hongjuan, still only 19 years old, in 1:26:46, a clear world leader for this season. Song already competed in Paris last season, but more experience is needed in a championships walk, as she was disqualified.
Song, from Jiangsu Province, bettered her earlier personal best (the world junior best of 1:27:16) from last season and is really a step closer to competing with the best in Athens. Although she is young, to win the Chinese Championships by more than two minutes is an achievement worthy of note.