Lijiao Gong of China in the women's Shot Put qualifying round (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Juniors and double winners excel in China, Chinese Championships

The Chinese National Championships were held for the third time in a row in Shijiazhuang in warm weather with temperature over 20°C. Although many of the nations top names were not among the competitors, a lot of exciting competition was seen over the three days from Saturday to Monday (11-13 October).

These Champs were marked by many double winners and an incredible number of junior athletes winning national titles. In the men’s side the juniors won 1500m, 5000m, 10000m and 110m hurdles with 20-year-olds grabbing all the sprint titles from 100m to 400m.

In the women juniors captured titles in 100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m, 5000m, high jump, pole vault, triple jump and shot put. There were also three young athletes completing a double, 20-year-old Liang Jiahong won the men’s 100m/200m double with 17-year-old Ha Xianping doing the same in the women’s sprints. China’s best women’s distance runner of the moment, 19-year-old Xue Fei, won the 1500m/5000m.

Olympic finalist Gong Lijiao impresses again

One of the most impressive winners of the meeting was 19-year-old Gong Lijiao who defended her national shot put title from last year with a 19.38m toss, the second best result of her career. Her second win at the National Championships was a clear one too, Li Meiju only managed 18.61m for the second place. Gong’s 19.46m at the Olympics qualification is the best junior shot put result for 14 years (since 1994) and to give a hint about her standard as a junior, here are the 10 best junior results from 1995:

19.46 Gong Lijiao 16 Aug 08 (Oly qual)
19.38 Gong Lijiao 11 Oct 08
19.20 Gong Lijiao 16 Aug 08 (Oly final)
19.13 Gong Lijiao 4 Aug 07
19.09 Gong Lijiao 23 May 08
19.07i Gong Lijiao 16 Mar 07
18.93 Valerie Vili 10 May 03
18.91 Valerie Vili 21 Mar 03
18.79 Gong Lijiao 12 Sep 08
18.77 Valerie Vili 27 Aug 03

Gong is also not just about results, at the age of 19 she already has a fifth place from the Olympics and a seventh place from the World Championships (2007).

In the women’s discus one of the oldest athletes competing at these Champs, 30-year-old Olympic fourth Song Aimin, captured her fourth career national title (and first since 2003) with a 63.50m winning throw. Song, who narrowly missed a medal in Beijing, has now completed 10 seasons at 60m or better with a 65.33m personal best in 2003. Second place in the discus was a real surprise with 25-year-old Xu Shaoyang finally able to break her previous personal best 62.54m from 2002. Xu took the second place with a 63.29m PB, also her first competition over 60m this season.

Zhang Wenxiu takes fifth consecutive title

Olympic bronze medallist Zhang Wenxiu easily took another national title throwing 71.11m in the hammer. This was Zhang’s fifth consecutive win and there is no end in sight as Hao Shuai was some seven metres behind in second place with 64.43m result. 22-year-old Liu Chunhua took the favourites by surprise in the javelin and won with a 59.04m personal best bettering her five-year-old earlier best 58.03m by more than a metre. 19-year-old Fu Lin was second with a personal best 57.35m and another junior Zhang Li third with 57.01m result. Javelin is a strong junior event in China with five Chinese athletes in the world junior top 10 this season.

19-year-old Zheng Xingjuan tied her season’s best 1.91m winning the high jump and Li Ling, also 19, took the pole vault with a 4.30m clearance. Yao Jiajia won the long jump with a 6.63m personal best and Xu Tingting took the triple jump title jumping a 14.15m personal best, the second best junior mark in the world this season behind Dailenis Alcántara’s (CUB) world junior title winning 14.25m. Chen Yufei, 19, was second with a PB 13.91m which is the third best junior mark in 2008.

In the running events 17-year-old Ha Xianping won the 100m/200m double (11.61/23.62) and 18-year-old Chen Jingwen clocked a season’s best 53.20 to win the 400m. The best middle distance runner in China, Liu Qing, won the 800m with a season’s best 2:04.42 but then did not start in the 1500m final.

Double for Xue Fei

With Liu not running Olympic 5000m finalist Xue Fei, 19, took her first 1500m title in 4:14.19 and also won the 5000m in 15:28.37. Running in a different heat, Bai Xue was second in the 5000m in 15:32.25, but then brightened the colour of her medal in the 10,000m taking the title in 32:30.79. One of the favourites for both events, 18-year-old Zhang Yingying who has run the marathon world junior best 2:22:38 this season, was a bit out of form finishing fourth in the 10,000m in 33:06.77 and sixth in 5000m in 15:44.64.

The women’s steeplechase ended with a sprint finish with Zhu Yanmei winning in 9:52.58 ahead of Fang Xiaoyu’s 9:52.99 personal best which was enough for the second place. Liu Jing won the 100m hurdles in 13.44 and Wang Xing was fastest in the 400m hurdles clocking 56.72.

And a sprint double for Liang Jiahong

In the men’s events the battle for the sprint titles was extremely tight, but 20-year-old Liang Jiahong emerged as the winner both times. First he won the 100m in 10.36 ahead of the fastest Chinese sprinter this season (10.23), Zhang Peimeng who was second in 10.37. At 200m Liang won in 21.06 ahead of Li Mingxuan’s 21.08.

Liu Xiaosheng made it back after injury problems in the summer to win the 400m in 47.04 and Li Xiangyu took his third consecutive title in 800m clocking 1:49.51. 19-year-old Xu Song took another title in the 1500m with a 3:43.86 season’s best result repeating his 2007 win.

Juniors shine in long distance events

The 5000m and 10,000m races belonged to juniors although the best older Chinese athletes were competing too. At 5000m there was a major surprise with 18-year-old Tian Mengxu cutting a huge 25 seconds off his previous best to win the title in 13:47.62. Tian had only run 14:12.91 earlier this season. About half of the runners set personal bests in the 5000m races (two races) with nine dipping under 14 minutes which is a rare accomplishment at National Championships these days. In the 10,000m another 18-year-old Li Zicheng won in 28:52.85 with Tian losing in the final sprint this time finishing second in 28:53.01. Plenty of former greats were far behind these youngsters with Ren Longyun (2:08:15 marathon in 2007) running 14:14.51/29:42.23 and Han Gang (2:08:56 marathon in 2007) 14:37.89/29:54.73.

30-year-old Sun Wenli set a season’s best 8:35.41 to win the 3000m Steeplechase ahead of Lin Xiangqian, usually the Chinese number one, in second place with 8:37.17. Yang Le was third with a personal best 8:38.44 and junior Xu Song also set a PB 8:41.73 for fourth place.

Liu Xiang’s heir?

In the 110m hurdles one of the most promising Chinese athletes right now, 18-year-old Xie Wenjun won his first national title in 13.68 (headwind). Xie, from Shanghai like Liu Xiang, already set a 13.47 personal best at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix last month. Xie is not that far off the form of Liu as a 18-year-old when he ran 13.32 against Xie’s 13.47.

28-year-old Meng Yan won his fifth career national title in the 400m hurdles with a 50.39s winning result. In the high jump Liu Yang won tying his season’s best 2.24m, but there was a real surprise for the second place. Chen Cheng, having turned 19 just three days before the competition, came to the meet only having cleared 2.15m, but added a huge nine centimetres to take the second place with a 2.24m PB which also gives him the equal third place on the world junior top 10 this season.

Yang Quan won for the first time in the pole vault clearing 5.40m upsetting national record holder (5.71m) and favourite Liu Feiliang who could only manage a 5.30 clearance for second place. Tang Zhanggui set a PB 5.30m and was third in the competition. Su Xiongfeng won the long jump reaching 8.07m and Wu Bo topped the triple jump competition jumping 16.90m.

In the throwing events Jia Peng set a season’s best 18.88m winning the shot and Wu Jian won the discus with 59.94m. Ma Liang won the hammer with a 71.95m release and Qin Qiang was the best in the javelin throwing 78.04m with Jiang Xingyu in second place with a 77.35m PB. 25-year-old Qi Haifeng took his seventh national title in decathlon scoring 7488 total points.

The Chinese season will continue with the Beijing International Marathon next weekend and then the National Junior and Youth Championships will be held in Huaian, Jiangsu province 31 October-3 November. The season will wrap up with the National Grand Prix Final in Zhaoqing 8-10 November.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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