Women and juniors excelled in the first leg of the Chinese race walking championships on the roads in Huangshan on Thursday and Friday (27-28).
The event gave a good indication of the form of some of likely members of the host’s team at the 2014 IAAF World Race Walking Championships in Taicang in two months' time.
Lu Xiuzhi, still only 20, continued in her recent role as China’s best female walker in the big domestic races when winning in a world-leading 1:28:57 to open her season on Thursday.
She also won the National Games 20km walk in May 2013 and finished in sixth place at the London 2012 Olympics Games, but she did not get selected for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow last summer.
Ding Huiqin, the 2012 Asian champion, was second with a 1:29:39 personal best, just her second career sub-1:30 race, and Nie Jingjing took the third place in 1:29:40.
Hou Yongbo, still just 19, was fourth in a 1:30:27 personal best. Sun Huanhuan, fourth in Mocow, was only fifth in this race in 1:30:37.
Two athletes from the 2013 World Championships trio, Moscow bronze medallist Liu Hong and 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Qieyang Shenjie, did not compete here.
Bian benefits from Chen collapse
Olympic 20km race walk champion and Moscow silver medallist Chen Ding is still having hard time after back troubles almost ruined his 2013 season.
This was another race he could not finish, just like his 2013 debut almost exactly a year ago.
The 22-year-old Bian Fongda emerged as the winner in 1:20:45, the biggest success of his career and his second best time ever, although he was more than a minute behind his personal best of 1:19:34 set when finishing fourth at the Taicang leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge last year.
Liu Jianmin was a distant second in 1:20:51 while Sun Chenggang third in 1:21:54. Cheng Min won a low-key 50km race in 4:00:48, finishing more than four minutes clear of his nearest challenger and slicing more than 15 minutes off his previous.
In the junior races, Chinese athletes showed they will be a medal threat later this season, not only at the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in May but also at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, USA, in July.
Gao Wenkui, 18 and from the Inner Mongolia province, was the fastest in the junior men’s 10km race in a personal best of 40:25.
Having finished eighth in the 2012 World Race Walking Cup junior men’s race when just 16, Gao looks set to make a big improvement in this summer’s two big races for juniors. He was followed by Jie Jinzhu in a personal best of 40:57.
Junior women’s winner Duan Dandan walked 43:31 to move up to eighth on the Chinese junior all-time list for this event, with the best junior performance in the world since 2009. Yang Jiayu was second in 44:16 in a race which saw the first 16 women set personal bests.
Youth boys’ winner was Tong Dongliang in 40:55 and Cun Hailu won the girls’ race in 45:36, all world-leading times in their own categories.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF