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Ex-Olympic champ Chen calls it a day

China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-22 09:00
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Chen Ding is seen during the men's 20-kilometer event at the 14th National Games in Xi'an, Shaanxi province on Sept 20, 2021. [Photo/IC]

Former Olympic race walk champion Chen Ding announced his retirement after finishing fifth in the men's 20-kilometer event at the 14th National Games in Xi'an on Monday.

"After today, I'll go back behind the scenes," the 29-year-old Chen said.

"I was not selected for the Tokyo Olympics roster, and ranked fifth in the National Games. I don't have any regrets about this. It's been a tough route for me, but everything was worth it," he added.

Chen won the gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics in the 20km race walk on Aug 5, his 20th birthday. The victory saw him become only the second Chinese man to win an Olympic athletics gold after hurdler Liu Xiang.

One year later, he finished runner-up at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, before ultimately being awarded the title after Russia's Aleksandr Ivanov was stripped of gold over a doping offense.

Chen was plagued by injuries after the 2016 Rio Olympics and placed fifth at the 2017 National Games before quitting competition to start a family and become a referee.

After watching Japan triumph at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in May 2018, Chen decided to return and try to revive his career.

However, rediscovering his best form proved beyond him.

"Race walking is a sport where you gain success through adversity," he said.

Chen faltered again at the national race walk championships and the Olympic trials in March this year.

"I haven't gone under that mark-1 hour and 21 minutes-for a long time," Chen said ruefully.

"In the past I could easily achieve it, but now it has become a barrier for me."

Just like four years ago, fifth was the best he could muster in this edition of the National Games. "I didn't feel well physically at the beginning. This was my last race, and I didn't want to regret it at the end. So I insisted on working hard," he explained.

Chen said he hopes to continue to contribute to Chinese race walking in the future.

"I will engage in sports with a new role and try some new things. But my future will be closely related to race walking," he said.


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