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Team China at Tokyo 2020: Going for a breakthrough in athletics

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L-R: Su Bingtian, Lyu Huihui, Liu Hong, Wang Kaihua and Gong Lijiao. /CGTN

Team China will send a total of 59 track and field athletes to the Tokyo Olympics to compete in 24 competitions. Though they aren’t considered the best track and field athletes in the world, there are multiple events in which China can compete for medal or even go for gold.

Back in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Wang Zhen and Cai Zelin pocketed gold and silver medals for China in the men’s 20-kilometer walking race. This time in Tokyo, 27-year-old Wang Kaihua will compete with Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi in the event.

Wang Kaihua (1:22:02) beat Yamanishi (1:22:10) to win the title in the Asian Game in 2018. Yamanishi got vengeance one year later in the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. This season. Wang Kaihua’s 1:16:54 is the best performance in the world, followed by Yamanishi’s 1:17:20. The competition between the two can be very close in Tokyo.

Yang Jiayu reaches goalline in Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s 20-kilometer race walk in Huangshan City, east China’s Anhui Province, March 20, 2021. /CFP

Qieyang Shenjie reaches goalline in Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s 20-kilometer race walk in Huangshan City, March 20, 2021. /CFP

Yang Jiayu reaches goalline in Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s 20-kilometer race walk in Huangshan City, east China’s Anhui Province, March 20, 2021. /CFP

Liu Hong reaches goalline in Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s 20-kilometer race walk in Huangshan City, March 20, 2021. /CFP

Qieyang Shenjie reaches goalline in Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s 20-kilometer race walk in Huangshan City, March 20, 2021. /CFP

Yang Jiayu reaches goalline in Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s 20-kilometer race walk in Huangshan City, east China’s Anhui Province, March 20, 2021. /CFPNext

Chinese athletes have bigger advantage in women’s 20km race walk. Liu Hong and Lyu Xiuzhi won gold and bronze of the event respectively in Rio. Liu Hong, Qieyang Shenjie and Yang Liujing claimed a top three spot in the 20km walk at Doha in 2019. Yang Jiayu even broke the world record kept by Liu Hong by finishing it at 1:23:49 in the domestic Olympic trial event in March. So did Liu Hong herself at 1:24:27. Qieyang Shenjie was third at 1:24:45 in that contest.

Yang Jiayu, Liu Hong and Qieyang Shijie are aiming to win a podium position again in Tokyo. Their biggest rival is Elvira Khasanova of Russia. Her best record this season is 1:27:13.

Gong Lijiao looks on in the Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event for the women’s shot put in Shangyu, east China’s Zhejiang Province, June 13, 2021. /CFP

32-year-old Gong Lijiao is attending her fourth edition of the Olympics in Tokyo. She won the women’s shot put title in the World Athletics Championships in both London (2017) and Doha (2019). The top two women’s shot put performances this season (20.31 meters and 20.39 meters) also came from her in June. Gong Lijiao already had silver and bronze in the Olympics. All she wants now is a gold to make her career complete.

Gong Lijiiao will need to beat three major opponents in Tokyo. 36-year-old Valerie Adams of New Zealand, 30-year-old Auriol Dongmo of Portugal and 30-year-old Jessica Ramsey of the U.S. are all competitive shot putters. Ramsey is the world’s second female shot putter to throw farther than 20 meters this season – the first is Gong Lijiao.

Liu Shiying (L) and Lyu Huihui of China celebrate with the Chinese national flag after winning silver and bronze medals in women’s javelin event in the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, October 1, 2019. /CFP

China’s Liu Shiying and Lyu Huihui are both world’s top female javelin throwers. Lyu Huihui has thrown over 67 meters seven times since 2017. Liu Shiying did it twice in the past three years. Their biggest obstacle is inconsistency, which has been behind their unsuccessful attempt to chase gold in multiple international events.

Maria Andrejczyk of Poland (71.40 meters), Christin Hussong of Germany (69.19 meters) and Maggie Malone of the U.S. (66.82 meters) keep the world’s top three women’s javelin throwing performance this season. Liu Shiying and Lyu Huihui have chance to defeat them if they are in their best form.

Su Bingtian wins the men’s 100-meter final in the Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event in Shangyu, June 11, 2021. /CFP

The men’s 100-meter sprinting has always been one of the biggest highlights in the Olympics. 31-year-old Su Bingtian will again seek breakthrough on the track in this event. The veteran has run 100 meters in less than 10 seconds seven times in his career. In June, Su Bingtian finished the domestic Olympic trial at 9.98, showing excellent form before the Tokyo Games.

Su Bingtian’s best record in the Olympics was reaching semifinals (twice). He is targeting at two things in Tokyo: breaking 9.90 seconds and making the final.

Su Bingtian (R) and Xie Zhenye compete in the men’s 100-meter final in the Team China Tokyo Olympic trial event in Shangyu, June 11, 2021. /CFP

The 100-meter event is not the only stage for Su Bingtian. He will join Xie Zhenye, Wu Zhiqiang, Yan Haibin and Tang Xingqiang in competing with Japanese sprinters again in the men’s 4×100-meter relay event. In 2016 in Rio, the Chinese team finished preliminary at 37.82 to break Asian record and make the final. In the end, they were No. 4 at 37.90.

Su Bingtian said they had been targeting at nothing but top three positions after the loss in Rio. His teammate Xie Zhenye finished the Olympic trial at 10.15 on the same track with Su Bingtian. Wu Zhiqiang reached 10.11, the best of his career this year. Yan Zhibin and Tang Xingqiang are both hopeful of breaking 10.20 seconds as well.

Chinese sprinters are ready to surpass themselves in Tokyo.

(Top image designed by CGTN’s Gao Hongmei)

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