Minjia Lu of China on her way to winning the Girls' Long Jump (Getty Images) © Copyright
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16-year-old wins women’s long jump in Jinan – Chinese National Games, Day 3

The third day (23) of the 11th National Games continued the high standard set by the first two days with Lu Minjia, just 16, stepping up to as new level winning the women’s Long Jump.

There were also two double winners as Sun Wenli, who had won the men’s 3000m Steeplechase for the third successive time took another title in a slow 1500m race on Friday. In the women’s race which was even slower 5000m champion Xue Fei grabbed another sprint finish win for her second title in these Games. The third day was also by far the warmest during the competition with temperature at 23-24 degrees Celsius instead of the 15-16 C in the evening session of the first two days.

Lu Minjia sails 6.74m Asian Youth record

Lu Minjia, who will be 17 years old only on 29th of December, emerged last year as a surprise winner at the Olympic Trials with a personal best 6.44m, being only 15 years old at the time. The Zhejiang athlete then won the World Youth Championships title in Bressanone this summer and followed that with a 6.54m personal best winning the National High School Championships during the Berlin World Championships in August.

At the National Games she was one of the favourites although much more experienced 25-year-old Chen Yaling had jumped furthest, 6.57m this season. Following her 6.52m qualifying performance, Lu started the final with a 6.32m jump but then took a commanding lead in the second round jumping a 6.60m personal best and Asian Youth Record. Chen answered with 6.44m in the same round and came close in the next round bettering her season’s best by one centimetre to 6.58m. Lu continued well jumping 6.44m with her third and 6.58m in fourth before hitting the winning result 6.74m with her fifth round jump. Lu’s result is the best in China since May 2005 and best by a youth athlete in the world for 26 years (since 1983) and also third in the world youth all-time list. Chen Yaling was second with 6.58m, Yao Jiajia third with 6.43m and triple jump specialist Xie Limei fifth with 6.39m, all season’s bests.

Zhang Shufeng prevails in tight men’s High Jump

The men’s High Jump was a tight competition, but the names at the top weren’t necessarily the ones expected. Chen Cheng and Huang Haiqiang had both cleared 2.24m this season, but Chen only cleared 2.20m for an equal fourth today together with 19-year-old Chen Ji. Huang despite coming closer to his best level could not clear 2.26m although he had cleared every height with his first try until 2.23m. The reigning champion from 2005, Zhang Shufeng had only jumped 2.20m this season, but was in different form today. Zhang too cleared every height with first try until 2.23m and was leading the competition together with Huang with Wang Chen in third place having cleared 2.23m with his second jump.

But 19-year-old Wang, 2007 World Youth Champion, surprised both of them in the next height 2.26m with a first time clearance to take the lead. Huang could not clear this height and finished third but Zhang continued to fight for the win clearing the bar with his third try. The reigning champion then went on to add a total of eight centimetres to his season’s best before the competition going over winning height 2.28m with his second. Wang moved his final jump to 2.30m and made a very good jump too, but had to be happy with a silver and a personal best this time with Zhang also making two unsuccessful tries at this height which would have equalled his three years old personal best.

Liu Chunhua throws beyond 60m to take javelin title

In the women’s javelin Liu Chunhua became the 11th Chinese woman to exceed 60 metres in the event. Liu’s winning mark of 60.65m, a personal best of course, came with her second throw. One of the favourites, 20-year-old Zhang Li, who was 10th at the Olympics last year, came close with her fifth throw 59.94m, a season’s best and silver medal today. 26-year-old reigning champion Ma Ning who already competed in her third National Games was third with a 58.99m season’s best result. 21-year-old Zhang Ying set a personal best 58.08m for fourth place and Chang Chunfeng was fifth with season’s best throw of 57.09m.

Tactical 1500s

There were only two running finals, both the men’s and women’s 1500m finals. Both races were tactical ones with women running exceptionally slow for the first two laps. Naturally after this kind of start it was all about the final straight and for a moment it did seem like 21-year-old Heilongjiang athlete Li Yong had bagged the win as her sprinting seemed unstoppable until the last 15 metres when 5000m winner Xue Fei passed Li to take her second win in these Games in 4:18.26 with Li close behind in second clocking 4:18.35. Su Qian was third in 4:18.62 just leaving 19-year-old Liu Fang out of the medals in 4:18.62 and reigning champion Liu Qing was left to fifth place in the final sprint (4:19.08).

The men’s race started slowly too with the first 200 metres taking more than 33 seconds, but pace was slowly picked up a bit and the 12-man group reached 800m in 2:04 lead by Ma Jifu. With the whole group naturally together before the last lap things started happening with a little more than 500 metres to go when the runners spread over four lanes with many of the trying to get into a good position before the bell. Midway through the backstraight 20-year-old Xu Song, the national champion in 2007/2008, passed Shandong athlete Jiang Bing to take the lead. Xu, from Shandong himself too but representing Army in this competition, was followed by another 20-year-old, the 2009 national champion from Xinjiang, Zhang Haikun and these two seemed to get away from the others.

But with less than 200 metres to go, 3000m steeplechase champion in 2001/2005/2009, 31-year-old Sun Wenli easily moved to third place following the duo to the delight of the home Shandong crowd. With 150m to go Sun had moved to second place and went past Xu 50 metres from the finish line to easily record his second victory in these National Games and his first in the 1500 metres clocking a season’s best 3:44.98. In 2001 he had finished in 12th and last in the final. Xu was second also recording a season’s best 3:45.93 and Zhang Haikun third in 3:46.05.

There are no track finals during day four of the National Games, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything happening as Liu Xiang will compete in the heats of the men’s 110m Hurdles in the evening. The women’s 20km Race Walk is in the morning with two field event finals in the evening: the women’s Pole Vault and men’s Discus Throw.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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