Seeking a new breakthrough

By Lu Wenao Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-28 5:03:02

Sprinter Su Bingtian carries China’s hopes in 100m dash

Chinese sprinter Su Bingtian reacts after running in the men's 100m final at the world championships in Beijing on August 23. Photo: CFP

After his sensational sub-10 second finish at the Eugene Diamond League Meeting in May, many Chinese pinned their hopes on the country's leading athletics star Su Bingtian. And he didn't let them down.

By equaling his personal best of 9.99 seconds in the men's 100-meter semifinal at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Su made it into the final to compete against a stellar lineup of names like Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay.

"It feels very good to stand in the lane of the final under the gaze of the world," said Su, who turns 26 on Saturday. "It's an honor to run with big names like Bolt. Competing with those top athletes will help with my future improvement."

Su ran the final in what he said was a "barely expected" time of 10.06 seconds, but his coach Yuan Guo­qiang said Su still has plenty of room to improve.

Unexpected start

Born in Zhongshan of South China's Guangdong Province in 1989, Su has trained in athletics since junior high school. In 2006, he was picked up by the Guangdong provincial team.

But it was in the relay, considered a quick way to make a breakthrough on the track by the Chinese Athletic ­Association (CAA), that Su rose to fame.

At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong, Su won gold in the men's 4x100-meter relay.

Even at this year's third-tier event in Beijing on May 20, just days ahead of his Eugene breakthrough, Su said he would focus on the relay event rather than the individual competition. But things started to change since last winter's training session, where he picked up a new starting method.

"I think I've got good control with the new method," Su said of his new left-foot start. "But I cannot say it's 100 percent. There's still space to improve."

In the previous method, Su would have reached his peak speed at about 50 meters, but with the new one, he said he is still accelerating at that point.

"It's not long since I adopted the new way. I think my best is faster than 9.99 seconds," Su said.

Overseas journey

After the London Olympic Games in 2012, the CAA invited ­several foreign coaches to China, while at the same time sending athletes to train and compete overseas.

Su was one of those athletes.

"At the beginning, when I competed with the athletes from other countries, I was a little intimidated," Su admits.

"But as I trained and competed with them more, the nervous feeling just disappeared.

"One day they will be afraid of us, just like when they feared Liu Xiang [former 110-meter hurdle Olympic champion]."

Feng Shuyong, head coach of the Chinese national team, said they were not confident in the sprint events before Su's achievement.

"We've had our strategy ­redesigned. Su has showed that we are capable of doing better," Feng said.

Feng also noted that some of the Chinese athletes "did not do as well as usual" when facing foreign athletes in major international competitions compared to their performance in domestic events.

"Sending them abroad to compete with athletes from different territories also helped them overcome their mental timidity."

The growing hopes pinned on Su also put pressure on him, as some are already expecting him to run in 9.98 seconds. But Su is calm on that issue, saying he won't do his best in every single game.

"For sure there's pressure, but I have to learn to get used to it," Su said. "I cannot make 9.99 seconds in every single race. I think I just need to do what I won't regret."

Su added that he would hold back some of his power in ­regional competitions.

"Preparation varies for different events," Su said, adding that he can manage in international events. "But at events like the worlds, you have to go all out."

Relay hopes

Su, along with teammate Zhang Peimeng, Xie Zhenye and Chen Shiwei, set an Asian record of 37.99 seconds in the men's 4x100-meter relay at the Asian Games last year in Incheon, South Korea. At the 2013 Moscow worlds, third-placed Canada clocked 37.92 seconds.

The whole team has high expectations for the relay final on August 29, said Su, who believes the runners' experience and home advantage will help the team do well.

Zhang is also a leading name in the 100-meter dash. He made the 10-second mark, becoming the first Chinese athlete to do so, in the semis at the Moscow worlds.

But the sprinting world is dominated by Jamaica, whose star-studded squad set a spectacular world record of 36.84 seconds at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

What's more, the US team is likely to include Gatlin and Gay, and will be hard to chase as they lead the season with 37.38 seconds.

"We have focused on the transferring of the baton in training since last year," said Su. "I hope we can achieve what we have been expecting since 2008."

China were disqualified in the 4x100-meter relay final at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

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