The 11th National Games in Jinan, China ended with a bang on Monday evening (26). 25-year-old Li Yanxi, who placed sixth in Berlin at the World Championships this summer exploded to a 17.59 metres Asian record in the men’s Triple Jump. And this wasn’t the whole story as another jumper, 24-year-old Zhu Shujing also progressed big time to 17.41 personal best and second place.
Elsewhere World marathon champion Bai Xue grabbed her second National Games title in emphatic style in the women’s 10,000m, while Shandong’s 400m hurdles ace Huang Xiaoxiao was denied her third gold again as in 2005 after losing out the final leg of the 4x400m relay to the Guangdong team.
Amazed by the result
While the evening was again cool with temperature at 19 degrees Celsius it seemed to be perfect for the triple jumpers as things started happening early. 18-year-old Cao Shuo from Hebei province started with the second best performance of his career, 16.90m in round one to take the lead. Cao jumped his personal best 17.13 in May for the best ever mark by a 17-year-old. Zhu Shujing was close behind with a 16.87 starter already coming close to his 16.92 season’s best.
But the second round changed it all, as while Cao and Zhu fouled their attempts Li Yanxi, who had shown exceptional strength in the qualification round with an easy 17.12, used his trademark fast approach and hit a hop, step and jump which silenced the crowd next to the jumping area.
Li who didn’t hit the board at all well jumping 20cm off the ideal take-off with his right foot just faintly touching the board, still flew to an amazing distance well beyond the flag showing the distance of the 28-year-old 17.34 national record set by Zou Zhenxian at the 1981 World Cup in Rome.
After an initial quick cheer the crowd was left quiet waiting for the distance to appear on the scoreboard. Li not surprisingly appeared anxious to know the distance too but although he must have known that the jump was big the Hebei athlete was extremely cool during the long 2-3 minute wait before the record 17.59 was shown.
“It took a long time for the result to appear on the scoreboard, because of that I knew I had broken the record.” Li said about the long wait for the record distance to be shown.
Although Li did seem very casual about the big result just continuing to put his tracksuit on when the result finally appeared only smiling as a celebration, he did say afterwards that he was stunned by the result. “As soon as I saw the result I was amazed and I still haven’t got my composure back,” said Li, from Shijiazhuang, also retained his 2005 title to win the National Games for the second time.
Sixth place in Berlin while injured!
Li’s coach He Youdi whom he naturally thanked after the big result was also extremely calm about the record just sitting down in the stands when the big distance was shown. Li also revealed he had been injured in Berlin. That wasn’t a big surprise as he had only competed once in Japan in April during the whole season before Berlin.
“I was competing injured in Berlin and still got sixth.” Li said about his injury without revealing any details about it. “But after I got back from Berlin everything went well and I was OK again before the National Games. I was expecting to jump about 17.30 here but the good atmosphere at the stadium got be excited and helped to gain the extra distance.”
Furthermore Li also commented on his technique saying that he was not one of the most technical jumpers, but thought his speed is his biggest strength.
In the competition there was still another big jump to come after Li’s effort. While Li did not continue jumping following his winning mark, Zhu Shujing apparently got excited about the Asian record too and got very close with his third attempt landing at 17.41m which also passed the old Chinese and Asian records. The previous Area Record was held by Oleg Sakirkin (KAZ) with 17.35 from 1994.
Cao Shuo finished third in the competition with 16.90 and Gu Junjie set a 16.83 season’s best for third place. Hebei had three athletes (in addition to Li and Cao) in the top five with Jia Yingli bettering his personal best with 16.69 for the fifth place. Dong Bin also recorded a PB jumping 16.65.
Wang just falls short of walking double
In the men’s 50km Race Walk, the Berlin World 20km silver medallist Wang Hao, who had earlier this week won the 20km race in these Games, nearly crowned a great début with a win.
However, the 25-year-old Yunnan athlete Zhao Chengliang had different thoughts. Zhao, who had finished second in the 2005 Games and had finished in disappointing 15th in Berlin, was strongest in the end clocking his fastest time since 2005, 3:40:33 for a clear win. Wang entered the stadium at the same time that Zhao finished the race and completed a great 3:41:55 first try at the 50km distance to take second place. This is also suggests Wang, who is still only 20 years old, is not restricted to 20km distance in major championships.
Si Tianfeng was third in 3:44:15 a season’s best bettering his fifth place finish from 2005 and Li Jianbo, who was second in the 20km race, just missed the medal this time setting a SB as well in fourth clocking 3:44:59.
The best Chinese in Berlin, Xu Faguang, was surprisingly far away from the medals here in fifth place with 3:51:02, while 16-year-old Wang Zhen finished in sixth in his first 50km walk in an impressive 3:53:00.
This race completed a change of generation in Chinese walking as reigning champion, 32-year-old Yu Chaohong, was 20th in 4:11.23 and 30-year-old Han Yucheng, who won the 20km race in 2006 Asian Games and has also done well World Cups, was only 15th in the race in a 4:01:33 season’s best.
Bai Xue completes distance double with 31:17.62 for 10,000m
In the women’s 10,000m, 20-year-old Bai Xue, who won the marathon in Berlin and secured the National Games marathon title a week ago in Beijing as well, demonstrated why she is the best distance runner in China at the moment.
The first kilometre of the 10,000m was led by Zhou Chunxiu in 3:17.55 making certain this wasn’t going to be a fast race. It took the runners nearly 16 minutes to reach the halfway though after 6000m there were only eight runners left in the race with the pace slowly picking up.
At 6500m there was a clear acceleration and quickly two more were dropped. Just a moment later only three runners were left with now Bai Xue, who was always last of the leading group and Zhou Chunxiu exchanging the lead several times followed Jia Chaofeng.
With exactly 8 laps to go (3200m) Bai made the first real move changing the pace altogether and within seconds Zhou had been dropped 10 metres back. Jia was able to follow for the next 150 metres, but in the middle of the back straight Bai, despite running wide to catch a drink from the table with Jia staying inside, was able to gain at least a 5 metres lead by 7000m which they reached in 22:20.
From that point on it was all about Bai sprinting away, the duo behind her were quickly a hundred metres back with Bai completing the final 3000 metres in a fast 8:57 clocking a personal best 31:17.62 for a win by almost 30 seconds.
Zhu Yingying, who finished third in the 5000m competition, caught both Jia and Zhou passing Jia in the final sprint setting a personal best 31:44.28 for the second place. Jia was third in 31:45.67 PB and Zhou Chunxiu fourth in 31:59.93, a season’s best.
5000m - Lin Xiangqian takes his revenge against Tian Mengxu
In the men’s 5000m race, which had been slow in 2005, Duan Qiquan made sure it was a faster one this time. Duan, running in much faster pace than his 14:26 PB, lead at 1000m in 2:43.57 and clocked 5:29.52 for 2000m before quickly dropping back after some 2150m to the race. After this there were several leads changes and third kilometre was a bit slower one in 2:48.29 for 8:17.81 at 3000m. The fourth kilometre was again a faster one in 2:44.88 and there were still seven men in the race with two laps to go with junior Li Zicheng taking the lead.
Li was still leading the same seven runners at the bell with they reached in 12:41 and steeplechase silver medallist Lin Xiangqian now moved to the lead surging forward with 300m to go. Jiang Bing followed and Tian Mengxu, with the fast finishing winner of the 10,000m, in third place.
It looked like Lin would be beaten exactly like in the 10000m race. But this time Tian’s final straight was not as strong and Lin held on to the win clocking a 13:38.77, a personal best, with Tian passing Jiang in the final metres to take the silver in 13:39.53, Jiang was timed in 13:39.61, also a PB.
Li Zicheng set a national junior record 13:40.88 for fourth place and Sun Wenyong, the twin brother of 1500m/3000m Steeplechase double winner Sun Wenli, was fifth in 13:42.39. The first seven athletes in the race clocked a personal best, Dong Guojian was sixth in 13:43.47 and Ma Jifu seventh (13:43.64).
Li Xiangyu makes Shanxi happy to make up for Liu Qing’s miss
In the men’s 800m final in the morning Li Xiangyu had no problem retaining his title from 2005 and bringing Shanxi province its first and only medal, a golden one. 400m was reached in slowish 53.98 and Li only made his move quite late with some 80 metres to go easily passing Wang Ningming to clock 1:49.19 for the win.
Wang set a personal best 1:49.53 for the second place and Xia Xiudong was third in 1:50.39.
In the women’s race, reigning champion Liu Qing, from Shanxi, had no say in the race although she led the athletes to a quite fast first 200m in 30 seconds. 19-year-old Liaoning athlete Zhou Haiyan took control of the race with still 550 metres to go and to everyone’s surprise after leading the group 400m in 64.04 and 600m in 1:33 she cut almost three seconds off her personal best winning in 2:03.00 personal best.
Zhang Liqiu also set a PB 2:04.03 for the second place and favourite Li Yong was third in 2:04.59, another personal best. Liu Qing was fourth this time clocking 2:05.50.
Other finals of note…
In the men’s Javelin Throw Chen Qi, who had been second in 2005 and fifth in 2001, finally struck gold with 79.57m season’s best, his best mark since 2006. Zhao Qinggang set a personal best 78.91 for the second place and Wang Qingbo was third with 78.73. Favourite Qin Qiang could only reach fourth place this time with 77.45. 37-year-old veteran Li Rongxiang also competed placing 16th with 67.55. Li had won the previous two editions of the Games in 2001 and 2005.
The men’s Shot Put competition was a tight one with the first three athletes within just 10 centimetres. 25-year-old Liaoning thrower Jia Peng, who was third in 2005, set a seasons’s best 19.20m in round four for the win, his best mark since 2005.
Guo Yanxiang was second with a season’s best 19.11 passing Xu Zhongnan by just one centimetre in the last round. Xu’s 19.10 personal best came in round one. 18-year-old Ding Yongheng made a big improvement to 18.83 to take the fourth place and all top eight throwers set either personal or season’s bests in the competition.
But there were also many surprises with the biggest of them Zhang Jun. The Chinese number one this season with a 19.58 personal best at the World University Games could only manage a 17.78 throw and didn’t make it to take last three rounds.
In the relays Guangdong took both men’s titles clocking 39.22 in 4x100m and 3:06.37. Guangxi surprised favourites Jiangsu in the women’s 4x100m relay and dipped to win in 44.32 before Jiangus’s 44.33.
In the 4x400m relay home team Shandong was the favourites with 400m/400m hurdles winner Huang Xiaoxiao as their anchor. But there was a big surprise in this race with Huang again like in 2005 failing to win her third gold. The other Shandong runners did well to give Huang a lead of about five metres before the last leg, but surprisingly she could not hold Guangdong anchor, junior Chen Jingwen behind her. Huang clocked a 51.94 last leg against Chen’s 51.3 with Chen catching up at the finish line for a 3:30.63 with Shandong timed 3:30.64.
This concludes the 11th National Games athletics competitions. The next National Games will be held in four years in 2013 in Liaoning province.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
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