Li Yanfeng in Beijing (Getty Images) © Copyright
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National record for Yang Yansheng in men’s Pole Vault - Chinese Champs & Asian Games Trials

The focus in Chinese athletics is different every four years and that was shown in the 2010 National Championships and Asian Games Trials in Jinan. The depth in every event was much better in many events and the fact that the Asian Games will be held in China later this year, in Guangzhou, has surely attracted all healthy athletes to compete. The meet was held from Thursday (5) to Sunday (8).

The women’s throwing events produced the best results, but the Chinese can field a strong team with medal favourites in almost all other events than the men’s distance running. The talk of this meet was about Liu Xiang and how he was given a wild card to the Asian Games and did not have to take part to these trials at all. Some other injured stars did compete and didn’t make it to the top two, so it remains to be seen what the actual team will be - usually the trials in China do not mean that the first two automatically make the team in this important competition for the Asian countries.

Yang Yansheng improves to 5.75m

The only national record of this competition came in the men’s Pole Vault where Yang Yansheng is slowly approaching the top of the world. Yang, 22, isn’t a surprise name as he won the World Youth Championships in 2005 and was the silver medallist at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing. In 2009 Yang cleared 5.70m and following a 5.63m national indoor record in March, he continued with a 5.72m NR in June and now cleared 5.75m to win the national championships in Jinan. 19-year-old Xia Xiang set a 5.35m personal best for equal second place, but is still 25cm away from Yang’s 5.60m national junior record from 2007. Lu Yao was the other athlete in equal second place with a 5.35m PB with Li Kang also clearing 5.35 for a season’s best and fourth place.

Strong women’s throws across the board

The best women’s result of the meet came in the women’s discus where 31-year-old Li Yanfeng continued undefeated in 2010. Li won with a 65.83m season’s best, her third 65m+ competition of 2010 and eighth straight win. 32-year-old Song Aimin, the reigning Asian Games champion from 2006, was second with a 63.62m season’s best adding two centimetres to her previous 2010 best which she threw in May in Germany.

24-year-old Olympic Hammer Throw bronze medallist Zhang Wenxiu had recovered from a shock defeat against a Chinese athlete, Wang Zheng, in June and added 2.5 metres to her season’s best with a 73.83m winning result. Wang was now a distant second with 67.81. Zhang will be looking to defend her 2006 Asian Games title in Guangzhou.

2009 Berlin World Championships bronze medallist Gong Lijiao was the expected winner in the Shot Put with 19.52m. The 21-year-old, who already grabbed her fourth straight national title, is the only favourite for the Asian Games win. Li Ling was second with 18.59m just edging Liu Xiangrong who was third with 18.44m. In the javelin the Chinese staged the best national competition of the season. 23-year-old Xue Juan won with 61.51m, the first 60-metre throw in four years for the former world junior and present world youth best holder, who threw 62.93m personal best at the age of 17 in 2003 City Games. Another former junior star Li Lingwei, who won the 2008 World Junior Championships, finally got over the 60m line for the first time with a 60.60m personal best for the second place.

In the High Jump 21-year-old Zheng Xingjuan won her fourth national title with a 1.91m clearance equalling her season’s best. Zheng was in equal second place at the Asian Games as a 17-year-old in 2006 and got her first top eight placing in worldwide competition with a 1.94m national indoor record and equal fifth in Doha World Indoor Championships this winter. Li Caixia set a 4.45m personal best to win the Pole Vault before Li Ling, who cleared a 4.40m season’s best height. Both the long and triple jump were low standard this time with 17-year-old Lu Minjia winning long jump with 6.47m and reigning Asian Games winner Xie Limei taking her fourth career national title with 14.01m a jump.

Women on the track...

In the women’s running events a medal is possible in every event at the Asian Games. Tao Yujia was fastest in the 100m setting a 11.42 personal best in windless conditions. Liang Qiuping, who was second in the 100m clocking a PB 11.56, was a clear winner in 200m with a 23.43 personal best to a slight headwind. Tang Xiaoyin won the 400m in 53.22 season’s best and the fastest 800m runner was Zhang Liqiu, who won the B-race with 2:03.25, faster than A-race winner Zhao Jing won ran 2:04.29, both personal bests.

Su Qian won 1500m in 4:17.06 and Xue Fei outsprinted 19-year-old Sun Lamei in 5000m with times 15:41.60 and 15:42.01 respectively. Marathon world champion from Berlin, Bai Xue, took an easy win in 32:53.24 season’s best with a massive 46-second margin to Zhang Xin, who was second in 33:39.66. In the 3000m steeplechase Jin Yuan took her second straight title in 9:52.92 season’s best and Sun Yawei missed her 13.12 personal best in 100m hurdles by only one hundredth of a second winning in 13.13 season’s best.

In the 400m hurdles World junior record holder (54.40 in 2005) Wang Xing won her third straight national title in 56.54 just holding off challenge from 19-year-old Yang Qi, who was second with a 56.77 personal best and Ruan Zhuofen, who clocked a 56.78 PB for the third place.

Some new names emerge – men’s sprints

The competition for the men’s 100m win was fierce. Lao Yi was the favourite having clocked 10.21 in June and he took the title in 10.31 in still conditions. Liang Jiahong was second in 10.33 and just 18-year-old Zheng Dongsheng was disappointed with third place and 10.35 result as he had won his semifinal with a 10.32 personal best earlier. National Games winner from last year, Lu Bin, was fourth in 10.37. Liang Jiahong came back to win the 200m equalling his 20.83 personal best from 2008. Zhang Feng set a 20.87 personal best for the second place and here too a junior athlete was disappointed. 17-year-old Lu Shangbin, the first Chinese youth athlete to break the 21-second barrier this season, was third clocking 20.94. Lu has run a national youth record 20.74 in June.

In the 400m there was a surprise winner. With National Games winner only coming back to his best form where he ran 45.79 as a 19-year-old junior in 2007, Deng Shijie was the favourite, but he faded badly in the final. Instead there was a total surprise name, 22-year-old Chang Pengben lowering his personal best a total of 1.01 seconds during the competition. The Shanghai athlete had a PB of only 46.99 coming to this competition and set a 46.88 PB during the semifinals. Liu Xiaosheng was second in a season’s best clocking 46.34 and 19-year-old You Cheng third with a 46.50 personal best.

There was a shock in the 800m as well with 20-year-old Yang Xiaofei cleaning the table for his first national title. Only coming to national level competition in this April, Yang came to Jinan with a 1:50.95 personal best and left with 1:47.63 and the national title. In the 1500m Jiang Bing won race A in 3:45.70, but Zhang Haikun was faster in Race B with 3:44.75, both personal bests. Gao Laiyuan won the 5000m in 14:13.27 and Li Fei was fastest over 10000m in 29:25.13. In the 3000m steeplechase the 2006 Asian Games bronze medallist Lin Xiangqin will be able to defend his medal in Guangzhou, he won here in 8:47.34.

With Liu Xiang given a wild card to Guangzhou, the 110m hurdlers knew they had to win to get to the Asian Games team as only two athletes per country are allowed to compete at the Asian Games. Two times World Championships finalist in 2003 and 2007, Shi Dongpeng, was the favourite and kept his cool well to win in 13.40, just 0.01 seconds off his season’s best. 20-year-old Xie Wenjun clocked a 13.47 equal personal best for the second place and Huang Hao was third with a 13.62 season’s best. In the 400m hurdles 2006 Asian Games silver medallist Meng Yan is still going strong. Meng, who clocked the 49.03 national record in 2006, won in 49.69 and will be competing in Guangzhou as well. 12 years younger Cheng Wen, 18, became the first Chinese junior to dip under 50-seconds in this event with a 49.89 national junior record and second place.

In the high jump 22-year-old Huang Haiqiang will get a second chance at Asian Games. The former World junior champion with 2.32m, still his personal best, failed as an 18-year-old favourite in 2006 only finishing in 15th place with 2.05m. Now he won the national title with 2.24m with the next five athletes clearing 2.20m. 19-year-old Zhang Guowei and 2007 world youth champion Wang Chen were tied for the second place with Chen Ji and Li Peng tied for the fourth and Zhang Shufeng in sixth all clearing 2.20m.

In the Long Jump there were no surprises. The best two Chinese were the only ones to make it over eight metres. Su Xiongfeng set a 8.17m personal best for the win and Li Jinzhe tied his season’s best 8.12m for the second. Wu Bo won a low standard Triple Jump competition with 16.81m with 18-year-old Cao Shuo taking second place with 16.77m. Dong Bin was third with 16.72m and Li Yanxi, the Asian record holder with 17.59m in November 2009, only competed for the first time outdoors reaching 16.59m for the fourth place. As Li is also the reigning Asian Games champion from 2006 it will be interesting to see whether this means he is out of the team for Guangzhou or will he too get special treatment like Liu Xiang.

In the men’s Shot Put national record holder (20.41m in 2009) Zhang Jun won with a 19.73m toss. Former junior star Wang Like, 21, recorded his first 19-metre throw of career with 19.18m for the second place. Wu Jian won the discus with a 59.45m season’s best throw and Wan Yong won the hammer with 67.39m. In the javelin first four throwers were within just 36cm. Qin Qiang won with a 78.59m season’s best with Jiang Xingyu reaching 78.52m for the personal best. Chen Qi threw 78.27m for the third place and Zhao Qinggang was fourth with 78.23m. Yu Bin won the decathlon with 7646 total points, a season’s best.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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