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China enlists famous coach in pursuit of Olympic gold

China enlists famous coach in pursuit of Olympic gold

15 February 2000 – Beijing - In pursuit of gold at the Sydney Olympics, China is once again turning to famed coach Ma Junren, whose concoctions of herbal remedies and turtle blood helped his women runners stun the athletics world in the 1990s.

In something of a comeback for Ma, his latest team of runners are expected to form the backbone of China's middle and long distance running squad at the Sydney games, the official Beijing Morning Post reported Tuesday.

The heavy-smoking, gravel-voiced and at times high-tempered coach had slipped from view in recent years with reported health problems and amid disputes with government sports officials. He and his runners were absent, for example, from the 1998 Asian Games.

"Ma's Army'' of female runners broke a slew of long-distance world records in 1993. Ma attributed their success to high altitude training, daily marathons and restorative concoctions of turtle blood, fungus and ginseng tea.

Shang Xiutang, a senior government athletics official, inspected Ma's training camp in the northeastern province of Liaoning over the Lunar New Year last week, the Beijing Morning Post said.

"It could be seen that they have prepared conscientiously for the Olympics,'' Shang was quoted as saying. He said that Ma's team "is, as in the past, top notch.''

Speaking to reporters Monday, Shang said China's biggest Olympic medal hopes in athletic events lay in the women's 1500 and 5000 metres, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

"Members of the national squad in these two events will mainly be followers of Ma Junren,'' Xinhua quoted him as saying. "They really do have a chance of taking a medal in Sydney.''

Ma will lead a Chinese team that is taking part Sunday in an international road relay race in Beijing.