Sun Yingjie leads in the 2003 World Champs 10,000m Final in Paris (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright
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Sun Yingjie and Liu Xiang win, while men's 400m hurdles record is set - Chinese Championships, Final Day

The two brighest stars of the Chinese athletics, Sun Yingjie and Liu Xiang did not disappoint the spectators in a sunny and warm Shijiazhuang stadium on Sunday 23 May.

The fourth and last day of the National Championships and Olympic Trials in Shijiazhuang, China, was conducted in nice warm weather with temperature around 30 degrees Celsius.

Sprint hurdling to Olympic gold?

Liu Xiang, who is the biggest Chinese hope for an Olympic gold medal in Athens, took an easy victory in the men's 110m hurdles in 13.40 seconds. Although he has some competition in China with Shi Dongpeng, this time Shi was not able to threaten finishing second in 13.67, Wu Youjia was third with 13.70.

Liu said after the competition that after the Osaka IAAF GP in which he beat World Champion Allen Johnson,  he started another phase in preparation for Athens and so knew that he would not run a fast time here.

Liu will now prepare himself carefully in China before moving to Europe in June/July, he is aiming to run under 13.10 seconds in the Olympic final and is certain that a time like that will earn him a medal there.

This was only his second national title as he didn't take part to last season's Nationals because he opted to run in the World Athletics Final in Monaco.

Sun Yingjie back on top

Sun Yingjie entered the 10,000m race knowing she would have to prove she still commands the event in which she got a bronze medal in the Paris World Championships last summer.

Although she has been having big problems with the serious collar-bone injury she suffered in December, she knew what she had to do in this race right from the beginning.

Sun ran her own race and left Xing Huina, who had defeated her over 5000m three days earlier, way back long before the 20-year-old could show her finishing speed during the last lap.

Xing was searching for a championship triple having also added the 1500m title to her belt, but she finished second more than 57 seconds behind Sun in the end.

Sun's final time of 31:50.90 may not be striking, but considering the weather and her recent injuries it was very satisfying for her and also leaves her in a very similar position to which she had before Paris.

Last season Sun came to the World Championships only having run 31:58.36 in April, but that didn't prevent her from getting a medal so it's now a matter of whether she can manage to leave the injury problems behind in the next three months. She confirmed earlier that she has opted to run the marathon and 10,000m in Athens.

"This is first time for me to run this event in the past six months. And I am very satisfied with the time," Sun said.

Triple Jumpers begin to show - 17.09 win

One of the most important events of the final day was the men's Triple Jump final. This event is always very important for the Chinese and the national record holder Zou Zhenxian was following the competition in the stands.

Zou's record of 17.34m has been standing since 1981 and during the recent years even the 17m limit has been too much for the Chinese athletes.

However, now there are three very promising young men coming forward. Gu Junjie, who also competed in the Budapest World Indoor Championships, has been in the spotlight, but he still is short of the Olympic A-standard 16.95 - his winning result of 16.92m in the 5th Chinese City Games in October 2003 being only 3cm short.

However, this time Gu was having big problems even in the qualification. He had to use all his power to get to the final where he only managed 16.61m. He has jumped 16.73m earlier this season and now has to search for that 16.95m in the remaining competitions before the Olympics.

Li Yanxi recovers some form  

When Gu did not succeed, it was another youngster, 19-year-old Li Yanxi, who gave hope of reaching the nearly 23-year-old national record later this season. Li, who had already managed to secure his Olympic spot before the trials, jumping to 16.99m in April, finally conquered the 17m mark with his winning distance of 17.09m.

Li had a very disappointing season in 2003 after getting the silver medal from the 2002 World Junior Championships. He jumped a personal best of 16.66m there as a 18-year-old, but then only managed 16.46m during last year. Now it looks bright for Li, who was competing before his home crowd, for he was born and is still living in Shijiazhuang.

Zou Zhenxian said after the competition that he really thinks Li Yanxi will be the one of strip his record off the books, "he has the rhythm that is needed for triple jump", Zou commented after the competition.

Double World Junior promise in the men's High Jump

Men's High Jump was equally intense to the women's competition. Here too two athletes ended up with the same result, but surprisingly they both are only 18 years old!

Beijing athlete Hu Tong bettered his earlier personal best of 2.18m set in both 2003 and 2004 by 9cm, but had to settle for the second place behind Liu Yang, from Liaoning province.

Liu jumped 2.24m in August 2003 and now together with Hu will be traveling to Italy for the World Junior Championships as favourites.

The two Chinese now lead the world junior lists together dropping the earlier leader Scott Sellers (USA, 2.26m) behind them. Only two juniors have jumped higher in China, Asian senior and junior record holder and Olympic medallist Zhu Jianhua (2.33m in 1982), and Bi Hongyong who jumped 2.28m in the prestigious 1993 National Games in Beijing.

Men's 400m Hurdles national record is broken

The final day finally saw a national record broken as well. 23-year-old Meng Yan, who has been slowly progressing in the 400m hurdles, recorded a first career sub-50 seconds result in April.

In the Shijiazhuang final the Jilin athlete was timed 49.18, just below Tan Chunhua's earlier mark of 49.25 set in the 1998 National Championships in Beijing.

Although he has not been at this level before, this was already a third national title for Meng who also won in 2000 and 2002. However, the improvement has been dramatic, his personal best before this season was 50.20 which brought him the third place in the National Championships in September 2003. Meng is a versatile athlete and competes in other sprint events as well, for example he recorded a 6.91 60m sprint during the winter.

Javelin recovery for World Junior record holder

18-year-old Xue Juan, the World Junior Record holder in javelin with 62.93m from October 2003, has been struggling to find the form this early season.

The National Championships however saw the 2003 World Youth Champion get over the 60m line for the first time this season with her winning mark of 60.08m. Naturally this is also the world leading mark for juniors and Xue will enter the World Junior Championships in Grosseto as the favourite to win the event.

Yao Yuehua won the women's 400m hurdles with a good time of 55.63, only 0.05 short of her personal best set in the 2001 National Games. However, she will be more disappointed with the fact that the Athens A-standard is 55.60, a time that would have guaranteed the Olympic trip for her.

Sprints

Men's 200m saw Shen Yunbao pushing for a double over 100m/200m, but 200m specialist Yang Yaozu took another national title in 20.73, well clear of Shen at 20.84 for second place and a personal best. This was already Yang's third consecutive National Championship and he also won the event in 1999 as a 18-year-old to add his total to four now.

Li Xuemei took another women's double at 100m/200m winning the longer distance in 23.17, but she again fell short of the A-standard of 22.97 for the Olympics. Her double win might mean however that she would get the final chance to run in the Olympics before ending her career next year.

An Athens focussed Decathlete

Qi Haifeng, one of the few Liaoning athletes who could record a win in these National Championships, did just that with a total of 7789 points in the Decathlon. However, Qi whose Olympic place is guaranteed, is concentrating only on the Olympic Games and try to record a personal best and national record there.

Gao vaults 4.40m

Gao Shuying, the Asian record holder at 4.52m from 2001, has had a couple quiet years, but is now coming to her best level thanks to a new Chinese face. 18-year-old Zhao Yingying handed a rare defeat to Gao in her own country with both athletes reaching 4.40m in Nanjing earlier this month, but in the National Championships it was 24-year-old Gao, from Shanghai, who took the win again clearing the bar at 4.40m. Both athletes have the A-standard and will enter the Olympics.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF


National Champions of Day four:

Men
200m: Yang Yaozu 20.73
800m: Chi Yinan 1:48.61
10,000 m: Zheng Kai 29:16.91
110m Hurdles: Liu Xiang 13.40
400m Hurdles: Meng Yan 49.18
High Jump: Liu Yang 2.27m
Triple Jump: Li Yanxi 17.09m
Decathlon: Qi Haifeng 7789p
4x100m: Guangdong 39.79
4x400m: Guangdong 3:06.38

Women
200m: Li Xuemei 23.17
800m: Liu Xiaoping 2:07.15
10,000 m: Sun Yingjie 31:50.90
400m Hurdles: Yao Yuehua 55.63
Pole Vault: Gao Shuying 4.40m
Javelin: Xue Juan 60.08m
4x100m: Sichuan 44.11
4x400m: Shandong 3:32.73

Chinese athletes with the A-standard for the Olympics:

Men
100m (10.21): Chen Haijian 10.17 (12 Sep 03)

110m Hurdles (13.55): Liu Xiang 13.06 (8 May 04), Shi Dongpeng 13.40 (14 Sep 03, also 13.52 8 May 04)

400 m hurdles (49.20): Meng Yan 49.18 (23 May 04)

Marathon (2:15:00): Li Zhuhong 2:11:43 (27 March 04), Zhu Ronghua 2:13:11 (27 March 04), Zheng Yunshan 2:13:39 (14 March 04)

Triple jump (16.95): Li Yanxi 17.09 (23 May 04)

Decathlon (8000): Qi Haifeng 8126 (26/27 August 03)

20 km walk (1:23:00): Han Yucheng 1:19:30 (20 March 04), Liu Yunfeng 1:20:06 (2 May 04), Zhu Hongjun 1:20:10 (20 March 04)

50 km walk (4:00:00): Han Yucheng 3:39:10 (22 March 04), Xing Shucai 3:40:22 (22 March 04), Yu Chaohong 3:42:28 (22 March 04)

Women

5000 m (15:08.70): Sun Yingjie 14:46.73 (26 August 03), Xing Huina 15:00.02 (18 July 03)

10,000 m (31:45.00): Sun Yingjie 30:07.20 (23 August 03), Xing Huina 30:31.55 (23 August 03)

Marathon (2:37:00): Sun Yingjie 2:19:39 (19 October 03, also 2:28:32 18 April 04), Zhou Chunxiu 2:23:28 (27 March 04), Li Helan 2:28:17 (27 March 04)

400m Hurdles (55.60): Huang Xiaoxiao 55.10 (26 October 03)

Pole Vault (4.40): Zhao Yingying 4.40 (1 May 04), Gao Shuying 4.40 (3 August 03, also 4.40 1 May 04)

Long Jump (6.70): Guan Yingnan 6.75 (21 May 04)

Triple jump (14.20): Huang Qiuyan 14.51 (22 May 04), Zhang Hao 14.22 (28 June 03)

Shot put (18.55): Li Meiju 18.96 (6 June 03, also 18.78 22 May 04), Li Fengfeng 18.96 (27 June 03), Zhang Xiaoyu 18.73 (5 Apr 03)

Discus (61.00): Song Aimin 65.33 (24 May 03, also 64.90 21 May 04), Huang Qun 64.42 (22 May 04), Li Yanfeng 61.87 (21 September 03, also 61.77 22 May 04)

Hammer (67.50): Zhang Wenxiu 72.42 (3 Apr 04), Gu Yuan 72.03 (12 September 03, also 71.97 20 March 04), Zhao Wei 70.67 (5 Apr 03, also 68.58 20 March 04)

Javelin (60.50): Xue Juan 62.93 (27 October 03), Ma Ning 62.38 (6 June 03)

20 km walk (1:33:30): Song Hongjuan 1:26:46 (20 March 04), Jiang Jing 1:27:34 (2 May 04), Wang Liping 1:28:58 (20 March 04)