Lijiao Gong of China in the women's Shot Put qualifying round (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Gong Lijiao improves to 19.82m in Shot Put - Chinese outdoor season begins

The Chinese outdoor season which will also feature the 11th National Games in October, began in warm weather in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province in southern China (10 – 12 April).

With the temperature well over 20 C at times many athletes already reached results which promise them a place in the top places in 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Berlin (15 – 23 Aug 2009), a top finish at the National Games and at the Asian Championships which take place in Guangzhou (10 - 14 Nov) as well.

WOMEN - Gong Lijiao moves closer to 20m

The best improvement was achieved by 20-year-old Gong Lijiao in the women’s Shot Put. Gong reached 19 metres for the first time as an 18-year-old in an indoor meeting in Shanghai in March 2007 and has been a part of world’s top elite ever since. She placed seventh during that 2007 season at the World Championships in Osaka and then took the fifth place in Beijing last season at the Olympic Games setting a big personal best 19.46m in the qualification.

This year Gong Lijiao started with an indoor best of 19.24m in Beijing on 15 March and then started outdoors two weeks later winning a university competition with a 19.08m toss. But her result on Friday (10) in Zhaoqing was already something else. Gong blasted out a 19.82m personal best adding a massive 36cm to her earlier best from the Olympics for the best Chinese Shot Put mark for more than 11 years (since 21 October 1997). This result also takes her to tenth place on the Chinese all-time list behind the nine 20 metre throwers, not a bad achievement for a 20-year-old.

Li Meiju, the former number one shot putter in China was second with 18.75m result and Li Ling third with 18.26m.

World season lead for Song Aimin – 64.83m

In the women’s Discus Throw 31-year-old Song Aimin, who narrowly missed a medal at the Olympics with her fourth place finish, took the world leader position with her best ever season opening mark 64.83m (in 2006 she started with 63.07m and 63.06m in 2008).

Song, who was a decent junior throwing 55.84m in 1997 for the Asian junior title and won the National Games in 2001 at the age of 23, has slowly matured to be a medal candidate in major championships. She has reached 60 metres for 11 successive seasons now, but consistency is something she has found later on. 64.83m is her fifth best career result and best since September 2005 when she won the Asian Championships in Incheon, Korea, with 65.15m result. Song’s personal best is 65.33m she threw in May 2003.

Other discus throwers weren’t in equally good form. Former double World Junior champion from 2002/2004, Ma Xuejun, was second with a 60.55m throw and Sun Taifeng third at 59.26m.

Zhang Wenxiu over 70m

Zhang Wenxiu, the bronze medallist from the 2008 Olympics, won the Hammer Throw competition with a 70.02m result and 20-year-old Zhang Li topped the javelin with a 57.10m winning mark.

In the women’s Pole Vault, now 19-year-old Zhang Yingning, who vaulted a World Youth Best 4.45m as a 16-year-old outdoors in 2006 and 4.46m indoors in 2007, is slowly coming back after a quiet 2008 season when she only reached 3.90m outdoors. Zhang won in Zhaoqing with a 4.15m clearance.

In the women’s distance running events results were not so great, but the brightest star of women’s running, Olympic marathon bronze medallist Zhou Chunxiu made two appearances during the weekend. She finished third in the 5000m in 16:10.62 and then took the second place in 10,000m in 32:41.35. Zhu Yingying won the longer event in 32:29.37 and Jia Chaofeng took the 5000m win in 15:56.64.

The best middle distance runner in the country 19-year-old Xue Fei, who finished 13th in the Olympic 5000m, won the shorter 1500m event in 4:15.22. 19-year-old junior Chen Jingwen won the 400m in 53.26 sec and Jiang Lan was fastest in both 100/200m in 11.81sec /24.03sec.

MEN - Yu Zhenwei breaches 8m for first time

In the men’s side the best results were achieved in jumping events. In the long jump 23-year-old Yu Zhenwei, who also has a triple jump best of 16.53m, reached 8 metres for the first time with a 8.11m winning jump. Wu Bo won the triple jump with a 16.83m season’s best with Dong Bin second with a 16.63m personal best.

2006 World Junior Championships silver medallist Yang Yansheng was best in the Pole Vault winning with a 5.50m leap, with national indoor and outdoor record holder Liu Feiliang not able to clear his opening height. Yang also showed some versatility competing in the Long Jump where he set a 7.25m personal best. 19-year-old Feng Xiaoming won the High Jump with a 2.20m personal best.

In the Shot Put, 25-year-old Zhang Jun is reaching for new standards. Zhang, who only had a career best of 18.73m before this season, set a 19.49m personal best for a win. Wu Tao won the Discus Throw with a 60.15m toss and Ma Liang won the Hammer Throw competition with a 70.72m season’s best. 25-year-old Hou Xingliang set a personal best of 76.50m to narrowly win the Javelin Throw ahead of Wang Qingbo’s 76.36m and Jiang Xinyu’s 76.15m results.

The best Chinese 400m hurdler for the past 10 years, national record holder (49.06s in 2006) Meng Yan won his event in 50.88sec.

In the 110m Hurdles more young hurdlers are reaching better results. 19-year-old Jiang Fan is the latest to enter competition for World Championships team places as he won with a 13.69sec personal best. Yin Jing was second in 13.71s season’s best. In this event the four best Chinese (including injured Liu Xiang) were missing from this meeting.

The flat running events didn’t offer too much this time. Zhou Jie won the 400m final in a 46.64sec personal best and Liang Jiahong won the 200m in a 21.02sec season’s best. Wang Chengliang who had been fastest in the heats with a 20.91sec personal best did not finish in the final. Guo Fan took the 100m win in 10.36sec having run a 10.34sec personal best in the heats.

The Chinese season will continue with the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Wuxi 17-19 April and then the National Youth Championships in Beijing 23-27 April.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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