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China's finest primed for podium push

China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-27 09:49
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From left: China's star sprinters Su Bingtian and Xie Zhenye, shot put world champion Gong Lijiao and javelin thrower Lyu Huihui are all going for glory at the World Athletics Championships, which kick off in Qatari capital Doha on Friday. Xinhua and Agencies

Medal chances abound as nation bids to better London tally at Doha worlds

China is looking to improve on its seven-medal haul from London two years ago at this year's World Athletics Championships, which open in Doha on Friday.

Two gold, three silver and two bronze medals in the English capital represented China's second-best result at a worlds.

Defending women's shot put champion Gong Lijiao is strongly favored to top the podium again for China after dominating the sport this year.

The 30-year-old from Hebei province has won 12 of the 13 competitions she entered this season and threw a world-leading 20.31 meters in Zurich last month.

American Chase Ealey, 25, handed Gong her only loss at the Diamond League's Shanghai stop and looks to be the Chinese star's biggest rival for gold.

Jamaica's world indoor silver medalist Danniel Thomas-Dodd should also pose a threat after posting the year's third-best result - 19.55m.

China's reigning 20km race walk world champion, Yang Jiayu, could come under pressure from Ecuadorian teenager Glenda Morejon, who edged the 23-year-old for victory in an event in La Coruna, Spain in June.

The 23-year-old Yang, though, seems more concerned about the heat in the Qatari capital than her rivals. During the day, temperatures reach 38 Celsius and humidity hovers around 50 percent.

"When I arrived here, I felt it was really hot and humid. It took so much energy to finish my first training session. But I am adapting," said Yang, who will race for gold around midnight on Sunday.

"My rivals and I will compete under the same conditions, so I will just focus on my own performance."

Yang's teammate Liu Hong, the Olympic champion and world-record holder, could also contend for a podium place after the 32-year-old returned from maternity leave this year in spectacular style.

In March, Liu set the 50km world record (3:59:15) in Huangshan, Anhui province. She also owns the 20km world record (1:24:38), set in 2015.

Qieyang Shijie, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, is an outside medal hope for China after clocking the world's fourth-best 20km time (1:25:37) this year in Huangshan.

Li Maocuo will spearhead China's hopes in the men's 50km race.

In women's javelin, Lyu Huihui is hoping to improve on the bronze she won at the London worlds.

Lyu has been victorious in 12 of her 13 events this year and registered a world-leading mark of 67.98m last month in Shenyang, Liaoning province.

Lyu looks set to face a strong challenge from rising Australia star Kelsey-Lee Barber, who heads to Doha with a personal best of 67.70m, set in Lucerne, Switzerland, in July.

Meanwhile, the fortunes of Su Bingtian and Xie Zhenye always generate plenty of interest back home in the men's sprint events.

Su returned to competition in August after recovering from a chronic back problem, with the 30-year-old gradually getting close to the form that saw him equal the Asian 100m record (9.91) last year.

Medals might be a stretch for Su and Xie, who also competes in the 200m, with Americans Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and defending champion Justin Gatlin all looking like potential winners.

Confident Xie targets final hurdle

Chinese hurdler Xie Wenjun hopes to cap a successful season by making the 110m final in his fourth appearance at the IAAF World Championships.

"I do not feel any pressure right now. It is my fourth world championships and I hope I can make some breakthrough this year," Xie said after training at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Wednesday.

"I like this stadium. I like the track here as well as the atmosphere. I feel very excited."

Since debuting at the 2013 worlds, Xie has shouldered pressure to match the success of fellow Shanghai native Liu Xiang, who became a national idol after winning the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and taking the world title in 2007.

In the past three editions of the biennial worlds, Xie has never made the final. He was ousted in the preliminary round in Moscow and knocked out in the semis in Beijing and London.

The 29-year-old's career got a boost when he started training under coach Rana Reider last winter. Xie twice improved his personal best to 13.17 seconds this year and qualified for the IAAF Diamond League Finals for the first time.

Xie said he has recovered from an ankle injury sustained en route to a fifth-place finish at the Diamond League Finals in Brussels early this month and is ready to make history in Doha.

"I think I have returned to 90 percent of my best form. If everything goes well, I can be at 100 percent by the time of the race," he said.


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