Lijiao Gong of China in the women's Shot Put qualifying round (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News

Favourites beaten in China - City Games, Day Two

Weather reports about nice weather were way too optimistic for the second day of the 6th City Games in Wuhan, China. In the end Tuesday (30 Oct) was foggy and almost as cold as day one with temperatures at 13-14C during the competition. The good following wind for sprints was gone as well which made it impossible for the runners to reach the times they achieved in Monday’s preliminaries.

This year’s edition of the City Games, the most important junior competition in China, has special importance because it should indicate Chinese prospects ahead of IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics, Bydgoszcz, Poland (8-13 July 2008), even though some of the athletes on show in Wuhan will not be eligible given that those born 1987 to 1991 can compete whereas the qualification age for the global meet in 2008 covers the years 1989 to 1992.**

Competition for the title of the best young athlete in China was fierce and many athletes who already have won worldwide junior titles and medals or even have senior achievements to their name, were beaten in many different events.

Gong Lijiao – favourite for Bydgoszcz gold – defeated by Asian champ

As expected, the highest standard event of the second day was the women’s Shot Put. Gong Lijiao, easily the best junior in the world this season having reached 19 metres both indoors (19.07m) and outdoors (19.13m), was the lone favourite. But it wasn’t so easy for the 18-year-old who this year had already won the National Championships and grabbed an impressive 7th place finish at the Osaka World Championships. She managed a 18.36m result which would have been enough to win any other junior competition in the world except this one!  Gong Lijiao was beaten by 19-year-old Liu Xiangrong who set a big personal best 18.58m to win this important competition.

Liu Xiangrong, an athlete from Inner Mongolia had come into this season with only a 16.94m personal best from last year and has progressed very well this season. Following her early 17.92m PB in April she won the Asian Championships in July before setting another PB 18.38m for a third place finish at the National Grand Prix Final in September.

Gong, who had beaten Liu by almost two metres at the National Champs, is still a junior next season and will surely be the only pick to win the title in Bydgoszcz should she be on that team. Keeping in mind that she has reached 19m at the age of 18, she just might opt to concentrate on the Olympics and a possible medal there just like Liu Xiang did in 2002, when skipping the World Junior Championships in Kingston before winning the Asian Games later that season.

Third in Tuesday’s impressive competition was 18-year-old Sun Huiying with a personal best of 17.18m. She will also be a junior next season and is one of the top three 1989 born aiming for 2007 World Junior Championships.

In the men’s 100m, Beijing athlete Zhang Peimeng was able to keep his title winning in 10.44, 0.03s faster than Wen Yongyi, who finished second in 10.47s. Zhang also won the National Championships and has four straight wins against Wen now. Lu Bin, winner of the World Champs Trials earlier this season, was third in 10.50s.

In the 400m, Chinese number one, 19-year-old Liu Xiaosheng, strolled to an easy win in 46.59. The Guangdong athlete, competing for Shantou city, has competed in seven finals (all in China) this season and won them all. These competitions included the World Champs Trials, National Student Games, National Championships, and now the City Games. He also set a very good 45.79 personal best in June.

The men’s 1500m final was run at a pedestrian pace which meant that almost all of the 12 finalists were still in contention when the last lap began. With the first six athletes finishing within less than two seconds, it was Zhang Guolin who emerged as the winner in 4:00.31. Wang Zhuming was not far behind clocking 4:00.90 for the second place.

World Youth champion Wang Chen out leaps World Junior winner

In the men’s High Jump, there was  a major upset for 2006 World Junior Champion Huang Haiqiang. The 19-year-old who won that title with a 2.32m jump in Beijing 2006 and had entered the competition having jumped 2.30m (8cm more than any other competitor), faded badly to an equal fourth place and could only manage 2.10m.  Instead, it was another gold medal for the 2007 World Youth Championships gold medallist Wang Chen, who won with a good 2.20m mark in the cold weather. 17-year-old Wang will surely be one of the hopefuls for a medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz as well.

In the men’s Long Jump, another 2006 World Junior Championships medallist, Zhang Xiaoyi, was badly beaten. The 18-year-old with a personal best of 8.17m in 2006 and season’s best 8.09m could not produce a mark in the first three rounds and finished the competition without a result. Zhang however, can make amend next year when he goes for another medal at the World Junior Champs. 

It was 20-year-old Su Xiongfeng instead of the favourite Zhang Xiaoyi who took the win, providing the first win for the hosts Wuhan city, as he produced his first 8 metre jump of career and won with best of 8.07m. 18-year-old Li Jinzhe was a distant second with 7.74m and Zhang Youshi third at 7.73m. This season has been extremely promising for Chinese long jumping with five athletes over eight metres. In 2006, 2005 and 2004 they had only one, with two in 2003.

In a tight men’s Hammer Throw final the only 70m thrower on the field, Wan Yong, was a close winner with a 68.44m throw over Qi Dakai’s season’s best 68.15m.

Juniors took the first four places in the women’s 100m final. Chen Jue won in 11.67 ahead of Ha Xianping’s 11.72 for second place and Jiang Lan’s 11.73 for third. All three ran much faster in the heats when they had better wind assistance.

The women’s 400m was a low-key event this time. Only the first two managed to dip under 54 seconds and neither of these got even a season’s best. Chen Jingwen was the expected winner with 53.41 and Wang Jinping second in 53.73. Chen is only 17-years-old and is therefore eligible for next years World Junior Champs.

Top quality women’s distance racing

He Pan’s winning time 4:11.22 was decent in the women’s 1500m, but it was not the biggest news of the day for her. He Pan, representing Shenyang city from famous distance running province of Liaoning, won the race very comfortably by a margin of 6.99 seconds slicing four seconds off her personal best.  Then only 55 minutes later started the 5000m heat and set another personal best 15:43.69 to qualify for the final in that event as well! Also, the fifth placer in the 1500m (4:20.78), Hao Xiaofan, qualified from the same heat over 5000m in a personal best time of 15:44.07.

Overall, the women’s 5000m heats was the best the day had to offer on the track. There surely is no other country where 15:46.95 would be 12th best and last time to qualify for the final in 5000m. Only one of the 12 finalists was born in 1987 and all others are juniors.

The 5000m final will be a very interesting race, whether it’s a fast or a slow one, there are so many favourites that it’s almost impossible to say who is going to win it.

18-year-old Bai Xue, fresh from a third place in the Beijing Marathon (2:27:46), was fastest in heat one in 15:31.24. Chen Huirong set a personal best for second in 15:31.82 and 2006 World Junior Champion over this distance, Xue Fei, was third in a season’s best 15:33.46. Xue is still eligible to defend her title at the 2008 World Junior Champs in Bydgoszcz.  Just 17-year-old Zhang Yingying won heat two in 15:40.82. She was second at the Beijing Marathon in 2:27:20. Another 17-year-old, Xie Fang, was second in 15:42.52 and the only non-junior to enter the final, 20-year-old Song Xiaoxue was third in a season’s best 15:42.59. In fifth place also advancing to the final was the Beijing Marathon winner Chen Rong in 15:43.73. 19-year-old won the marathon 2:27:05 just nine days ago.

Sun Yawei won the 100m Hurdles in 13.60 seconds, a lot slower than her 13.43 clocking in heats. Hu Yueyue was well beaten and was second in 13.91.

In the men’s 5000m heats Ren Longyun, who recently crushed the Chinese marathon record with his 2:08:15 second place time in Beijing, was fastest with 14:10.75. Another favourite, steeplechase specialist Lin Xiangqian, won the other heat in 14:27.98.

Wednesday (31) will feature mainly preliminaries, but also the men’s 5000m final with the marathon star Ren Longyun, men’s Pole Vault with Yang Yansheng, the 2006 World Junior Championships silver medallist, the women’s Triple Jump final and as the last final of the day, the women’s 5000m final.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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**NOTE: Any athlete under the age of 20 years but of at least 16 years of age on 31 December 2008 (that covers the year's 1989-1992) may compete in IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics Bydgoszcz, Poland (8-13 July 2008).