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High hopes for home success

Lei Lei
Updated: Aug 19,2015 8:44 AM     China Daily

The IAAF World Championships will be held in Beijing from Aug 22 through 30.[Photo/China Daily]

China’s largest-yet team of athletes for world championships.

Sending its largest-ever team to the IAAF World Championships, which will open on Aug 22 in Beijing, the Chinese track and field team is hoping for breakthroughs at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest.

“I hope the Chinese team can do better than last time at the Bird’s Nest,” said Feng Shuyong, deputy director of the Chinese Athletics Association and head coach of the Chinese team.

The last time the Chinese track and field team competed in a major event at the Bird’s Nest was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where the home audience saw Liu Xiang, the men’s 110 m hurdles defending Olympic champion, limp off the track. The Chinese track and field team collected only two bronze medals at the 2008 Olympics, with Zhou Chunxiu finishing third in the women’s marathon and Zhang Wenxiu winning bronze in the women’s hammer throw.

Actors rehearse for the opening ceremony of the event.[Photo/China Daily]

“You have many advantages competing on home soil but there is also huge pressure. Last time Liu Xiang was overburdened with excessive expectations. I think this time the athletes won’t be under as much pressure,” Feng said.

China unveiled its biggest squad yet for an athletics world championships, with 69 athletes, comprising 30 men and 39 women. They will compete in 34 events at the tournament in the Chinese capital. The event, which has attracted nearly 2,000 athletes from 207 nations and regions, will run from Aug 22 to 30.

China’s medal hopes are pinned on the men’s and women’s race walking and the women’s shot put, hammer throw and javelin. When Russia withdrew most of its race walking team from international competitions in the wake of a series of doping allegations, Feng said he saw a golden chance for China.

London Olympic champion Chen Ding and London bronze medalist Wang Zhen will vie for the men’s 20 km race title, while world record holder Liu Hong shoulders the hopes for the women’s side.

A volunteer instructs audience members at a rehearsal for the IAAF World Championships.[Photo/China Daily]

Two-time world championship medalist Gong Lijiao will strive for a position on the podium in the women’s shot put.

Other breakthroughs in men’s jumping and sprint events are what Chinese athletics fans are eagerly hoping for.

In the men’s 100 m, Su Bingtian is out of the reach of the podium, as the event’s stars are defending champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Justin Gatlin of the United States. However, the Chinese team will be pleased if Su can better his own national record of 9.99 seconds, achieved in May’s Diamond League in the US, which made him the first Chinese runner to break the 10-second barrier.

“I hope I can run under 10 seconds again at the Beijing worlds,” said Su. “There is no limit for human beings, so I don’t think 9.99 seconds is my limit. If I continue to work hard, I will reach another personal best.”

Zhang Guowei, a rising star in the men’s high jump, nailed the world’s second best of 2.38 meters this season and is looking to beat the 31-year-old national record of 2.39 meters set by Zhu Jianhua in 1984.

“I think I will reach my best form in the following week, which is good for me to perform well at the competition,” Zhang said. “I will compete with myself.”

Feng introduced a new department to focus on jumping, sprinting and hurdle training in 2012 that has helped athletes make rapid progress, he said.

“What we lack now is breakthroughs,” Feng added.

He said the team was inspired by the achievements of their swimming counterparts at the world championships in Kazan, Russia, earlier this month.

“I watched all the races of the Chinese swimming team at the world championships. Their performance inspired me. Our team should learn from them,” said Feng.

The Chinese swimming team gained five gold medals, one silver and seven bronze at the Kazan World Championships, which concluded on Aug 9.

“I hope I can hear the national anthem in Beijing and see the national flag raised as many times as possible,” Feng added.

Xinhua contributed to this story.