Dong Bin of China in action in the triple jump (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Feature Nanjing, China

Chinese triple jumper Dong Bin eyes breakthrough in Portland

A fast sprint along the track followed by a powerful hop and step, and then a well-stretched jump. China’s Dong Bin leapt 17.25m in the first round of the men’s triple jump at the second National Indoor Grand Prix of 2016 on Friday (4) in Nanjing.

Instead of trying to beat the 17.41m Asian indoor record he set four days earlier in the same venue, the 27-year-old chose to pass his five remaining attempts. His 17.25m leap was good enough to secure the title from Cao Shuo, the seventh-place finisher at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Sopot 2014, who finished second with 16.45m.

“I just want to save all my strength and energy for the coming World Indoor Championships,” said Dong. “And hopefully I can achieve a better result in Portland.”

Dong has represented China twice at the World Indoor Championships, twice at the World Championships and once at the Olympic Games, but he has not yet managed to secure a medal. His eighth-place finish at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul remains his best result at a global championship.

Boosted by his new continental indoor record, Dong is ready to make a difference this time.

“To be honest, I did not expect I could jump that far in Nanjing,” he said. “Before the competition my coach and I expected I could jump about 16.80m to 17.00m.”

Dong attributed his current form to an uninterrupted and successful block of winter training.

“Everything went to plan and I was not very tired coming into the indoor season,” he said. “And the most important thing is I keep believing in myself.”

Never lost the faith

Born in the city of Changshan in China’s Hunan Province, Dong began triple jumping at the age of 14. He first represented his county internationally in 2006 at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing but he didn’t make it to the final.

Less than four years later, he won his first of two Asian indoor titles. He broke the Chinese indoor record with 17.01m in 2011 and then in 2013 he broke the 20-year-old Asian indoor record set by Oleg Sakirkin of Kazakhstan with a jump of 17.16m.

“Since that jump, I failed to make any further breakthrough indoors during the following three years,” said Dong. “I was disappointed. I felt tormented inside. But I have never lost my belief. I want to thank my coach. It is his encouragement that helps to build my confidence.”

In Nanjing last month, he not only added 25 centimetres to his previous indoor best, but he also moved to the top of the 2016 world list. It is also four centimetres longer than the winning mark from the 2014 World Indoor Championships.

“My next goal is to break the Asian record,” said Dong, referring to the outdoor continental record of 17.59m set by compatriot Li Yanxi in 2009.

Keeping up with the best in the world

Last year the triple jump went through something of a renaissance as USA’s Christian Taylor and Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo regularly duelled near – and sometimes beyond – the 18-metre line.

But at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, the Chinese triple jumpers failed to live up to expectation on home soil as none of the host nation’s three triple jumpers, including Dong, managed to make the final.

“I know there is still a huge gap between the world elite triple jumpers and us,” said Dong. “But failing to reach the final on home soil is still a big disappointment for me.”

Dong got married last October. Only two weeks after their wedding ceremony, Dong waved goodbye to his wife and started his winter training camp.

“I really want to thank my wife who has being supporting me so much and sacrificing a lot,” Dong said. “Right now I can only compensate her with my performance in the field.”

In Dong’s mind, the World Indoor Championships is not the ultimate goal of the year; he has already set his eyes on the Olympic Games in August. No Chinese athlete has ever earned an Olympic medal in the horizontal jumps, and Dong could be the man to end that drought.

But, characteristically, Dong doesn’t want to get carried away with his ambitions.

“Reaching the top eight is my goal for Rio.”

Vincent Wu for the IAAF