Chinese athletes target Asian Games glory after Diamond League race
No time to rest
Published: Sep 03, 2023 08:27 PM
Feng Bin competes in the women's discus throw on September 2, 2023 in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province. Photo: VCG

Feng Bin competes in the women's discus throw on September 2, 2023 in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province. Photo: VCG

Racing back-to-back in an intensive competition schedule often creates extreme fatigue for athletes, but several Chinese track and field stars are shrugging off this issue.

The Chinese national athletics team did not achieve what they were expecting at the Budapest world championships in August, bagging only two bronze medals thanks to two female athletes, Feng Bin in the women's discus throw and Gong Lijiao in the women's shot put.

Feng, who finished in third place at the world championships with a career second-best of 68.20 meters, is among the Chinese athletes taking on high-profile events one after another, from the 2022 World Athletics Championships in August to the Diamond League event over the weekend, followed by the Asian Games to be hosted by China.

The 28-year-old, who clinched her third career best at the Diamond League in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province, with a sensational last throw of 67.41 meters to defeat Croatia's title contender Sandra Perkovic and newly crowned world champion, US' Laulauga Tausaga, said that the result boosted her confidence of doing better at the upcoming Asian Games. 

"My best form sometimes comes at the late stage during the competition," Feng told reporters after the Diamond League race. "It's an honor to win a title on home soil.

"My goal at the Asian Games is to make some breakthroughs for myself, as I believe everything is possible in athletics," Feng said, before noting that she hopes to set a new personal best at the Asian Games.

Feng's current personal best sits at 69.12 meters, which was set at the 2022 World Athletics Championships where she won the gold medal. 

At the Asian Games in 2018, she won a silver medal with a 64.25-­meter throw. Currently the Asian Games' record sits at 66.18 meters, set by Feng's compatriot Li Yanfeng during the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. 

Sprinting hopes 

Sprinter Xie Zhenye, who has been pinned as China's hopes in the men's 100-meter sprint after trailblazer Su Bingtian decided to sit out in 2023 due to an injury, finished in eighth place with a time of 10.12 seconds in a 10-man race. 

In a fiercely competitive sprint race, 30-year-old Xie faced several elite sprinters, including 2011 world champion Yohan Blake, 2019 world champion Christian Coleman, 2022 world champion Fred Kerley, and Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Marcell Jacobs. 

Xie however said that he is aiming for the gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.

"I fell behind at the beginning of the race when competing with these elites," Xie told reporters after Coleman won the race in 9.83 seconds. "As we continue to troubleshoot, I still have nearly a month to hone my skills for the Asian Games."

Xie, who is a Zhejiang native, said his goal at the Asian Games is to win the championship at hometown. 

"The Asian Games is vital for me as it is being held in my hometown. Participating in the Diamond League competition could activate my best form for the Asian Games," Xie noted. 

Chinese runners compete in the men's 4x100 meters relay on September 2, 2023 in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province. Photo: VCG

Chinese runners compete in the men's 4x100 meters relay on September 2, 2023 in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province. Photo: VCG

Xia Sining, who became an online sensation, clocked in at 13.19 seconds in the women's 100 meters hurdles. Her season was beleaguered by injuries as they prevented the star athlete to progress. 

"Athletes are no stranger to injuries," 20-year-old Xia told reporters. "But we need to figure out ways of how to alleviate it and avoid injuries in the first place."

When asked about the online attention she receives, she said the only way is to channel pressure into motivation.

"Athletics is not only about winning championships however, but also gives returns to everyone who loves the sport passionately," Xia said. 

"I just train when I need to train as it is a competitive sport, to turn the pressure outside of the field into motivation," said Xia, who is training with Sun Haiping, the man who ensured hurdles star Liu Xiang's rise to fame two decades ago.

However, Xia will not compete for China at the Asian Games, as her current personal best, 13.14 seconds, is shy of leading athletes Wu Yanni and Lin Yuwei's times as they have broken the 13-second barrier. 

Wu skipped Saturday's race and Lin won the event by clocking in at 13.00 seconds. Lin has also eyed the upcoming Asian Games for a better performance.

"I will bring my all effort to the coming Asian Games," Lin said after the race, before paying tribute to teammate Ge Manqi, a 100 meters sprint specialist from Fujian, for soldiering on through the tough times. 

"We have been encouraging each other through the common difficulties we have faced this year. Hopefully we will give a better performance at the Asian Games," Lin said.

More to come

Xiamen is no stranger to athletics as the city's annual marathon race is considered one of the most picturesque races, attracting thousands of participants every year. 

The Diamond League race held in Xiamen on Saturday marked its debut in the coastal city, as Xiamen will play host to the Diamond League for 10 consecutive seasons. 

The debut of the Xiamen Egret Stadium, the venue of the Diamond League and a return of the prestigious athletics event to China after a three-year hiatus, witnessed nearly 30,000 spectators in attendance at the 53,405-seat stadium, according to event organizers. 

US sprinter Kerley was impressed by the design of the stadium and the surrounding view, saying it would be great to see Xiamen hosting an athletics world championship. 

Xiamen will also host the 2027 Asian athletics championships.

The women's discus winner Feng said she is looking forward to seeing more top-tier international athletics events held in China.

"The more top-level international events held in China, the more chances we can compete with other internationally high-level athletes," Feng said. 

"This could facilitate exchanges between Chinese track and field athletes and the international counterparts."