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Hitting the home stretch toward Tokyo

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-21 09:27
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Sprinter Su Bingtian was thrilled to run under 10 seconds (9.98) in the 100 meters at this month's Chinese National Athletics Championships in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Su Bingtian and Gong Lijiao impress as China's Olympic hopefuls gauge preparations at national championships

China's track and field stars continued to fine-tune their Olympic preparations at this month's Chinese National Athletics Championships, with a number of standout performances boding well for their chances at the Tokyo Games.

The star of the show at Shangyu Sports Center in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province was sprinter Su Bingtian, who won the men's 100 meters title in 9.98 seconds on June 11. It was the seventh time the 31-year-old has dipped under the 10-second mark in the discipline.

"It was really important that I could have a good result before the start of the Tokyo Olympics. It gives me a better indication of what shape I'm in and gives me confidence before the Games," said Su.

"My overall condition is good now, but there are still some minor issues to sort out. I still have room for improvement."

Su showed great momentum in 2018 and 2019, winning numerous 60m and 100m races at domestic and international meets.

As the first-ever Asia-born sprinter to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m in 2015, Su twice equaled the Asian record of 9.91 seconds in 2018 and clocked 9.92 to take that year's Asian Games title in Jakarta.

However, a waist injury in late 2019 slowed Su's progress, before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the entire 2020 season to thwart his comeback plans.

Su credits his support team for helping him to return to somewhere near his peak ahead of what's likely to be the veteran's last Olympics.

"In 2019, I was not in good shape and it has not been an easy task to restore my strength. Now another challenge for me is how to maintain my momentum," Su said.

"I received the best possible treatment for my injuries, and with my results this season I have not let down my support team."

Xie Zhenye clocked 20.57 seconds to win the 200m in Shaoxing, and was second behind Su in the 100m in 10.15 sec.

The 27-year-old owns the Asian 200m record (19.88), and in 2018 became the second Chinese sprinter to break the 100m 10-second barrier, with a personal best of 9.97.

"All these events are for the Tokyo Olympics. We don't necessarily need to have stunning results, but the main goal is to test our training and to see if there are problems to be fixed," Xie told China Newsweek.

"In terms of what meets I might participate in next, that will depend on what sort of shape I'm in. We participate in these meets for the Olympics. If we are not strong enough due to a lack of training, just continuing to race is pointless. But if we are not motivated or excited enough, we should keep competing at these meets."

Rather than being rivals on the track, Su and Xie very much consider themselves teammates and friends who will fight together for the nation in the 4x100m relay in Tokyo.

"Su is recovering well and looks in very good shape… as long as he's in good condition our relay team will be stronger and be more competitive," Xie said.

"Speaking of the 100m, Su and I will fight for spots in the final. No Chinese sprinter has ever reached the final of the 100m at the Olympics, and it's a similar situation for the 200m. So we want to make some breakthroughs."

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