The Chinese athletics season on track closed with the National Championships held in Kunshan 22-25 September. The competition featured more or less all the Chinese top athletes who are healthy at the moment and many of them finished their season well, but also some new champions were crowned. The weather was nice and warm almost throughout the whole meet.
The biggest names were competing, as usual, in the women’s throwing events. It seems that the Chinese timed their form to perfection as they reached or were very close to their best results at the Olympics. Now results were not as spectacular, but of course a national title always of interest to athletes. Shot putter Gong Lijiao is just 23 years old, but already grabbed her seventh national title with a 19.87m result achieved in the sixth round. Olympic finalists Liu Xiangrong (18.48m) and Li Ling (17.76m) were second and third respectively. In the Hammer Throw Zhang Wenxiu, fourth in London, grabbed an easy win also hitting her best mark in the last round with 74.94m, but there was an upset in the discus.
The reigning World Discus Throw champion from Daegu and Olympic bronze medallist from London, Li Yanfeng, could not find a way to win her third successive national title. A 67.84m thrower season and a 67.22m performer at the Olympics, the 33-year-old started with a 61.20m in round one, but did not take the lead at any part of the competition. 24-year-old Tan Jian, who did not get a result in the London qualification, but placed sixth in Daegu World Champs, took the lead with a 61.67m first round effort bettering that with a 62.83m throw in round four to win her first national title. There was a shock for third place with Lu Xiaoxin setting a personal best in fifth (59.16m) and sixth round (59.64m) to leave 34-year-old Song Aimin, who placed fourth at the 2008 Olympics and has won four national titles, to fourth place with a 59.52m season’s best.
In the Javelin Throw, Lu Huihui, who was fifth in London, led the competition until the final round with 59.00m, but 24-year-old Chang Chunfeng grabbed her second national title with her last throw if 59.16m. Chang was a super junior and her personal best still stands 61.61m, which she threw just after her 19th birthday in 2007, the same year she also grabbed her first Chinese title. 23-year-old Lu finished in second with 59.00m, her best placing in national champs and first meet in 2012 when she didn’t reach 60 metres. Coming to the season her PB was 58.72m and she threw more than 63.50m in seven competitions. Two juniors did well in the competition too, Song Xiaodan was fifth with a 56.56m personal best and World Junior Champs silver medallist Liu Shiying sixth with 56.04m.
Wang Huiqin won the Triple Jump with 14.02m and Chen Yufei was second with 13.97m season’s best before 17-year-old Li Xiaohong, who set 13.85m personal best for third. Xu Xiaoling topped Long Jump with 6.58m. Just 16-year-old Wang Rong added 32cm to her best with a 6.39m PB for the second place. Li Ling won the Pole Vault with 4.40m SB and 23-year-old Zheng Xingjuan won already her eighth national title clearing 1.92m, same as her season’s best with first attempt. She has been clearly the best Chinese high jumper since 2005 (when she was just 16), but now it seems there is competition as Wang Yang, also 23, added 4cm to her PB clearing 1.92m as well with her second try and both athletes failed their three attempts at 1.95m.
20-year-old Wu Shujiao has been the number one 100m hurdler in China this season and she capped her season nicely with the first national title and a personal best 12.98 (also PB 13.11 in heats). Sun Lu won the 1500m in 4:12.16 personal best and in a tight 800m final 24-year-old Zhao Jing won her third successive title with a 2:01.46 personal best just beating 17-year-old Wang Chunyu. Wang, who was second at the 2011 World Youth Champs, ran a season’s best 2:01.48. Wei Yongli won a 100m/200m double (11.51 and 23.37 equal PB).
In the men’s events Su Bingtian ended his season with a second consecutive national title. Last year he set a 10.16 national record and wasn’t far away this time either clocking 10.21, his second best of the year behind 10.19 he ran at the Olympics in London. Su also ran the the fastest time ever by a Chinese athlete winning in a wind aided 10.04 in Kawasaki, Japan, in May. 19-year-old junior athlete Xie Zhenye ended his 2012 campaign in style winning the 200m in 20.77. He became a co-holder of the 20.54 national record in May (with Han Chaoming, 1996 and Yang Yaozu, 2006) and placed fifth at the World Junior Champs in Barcelona.
The best Chinese middle distance runner Teng Haining proved his impressive sprinting skills in the final straight earning wins in both 800m and 1500m. In 800m the 19-year-old set 1:46.56 national junior record winning the Asian Junior Champs in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in June and 1:47.91 winning time here was the second best clocking during the season. He also won the 1500m in 3:42.88 season’s best followed by another junior Sun Lele, 18, in a 3:43.91 PB. In the absence of Liu Xiang, 22-year-old Xie Wenjun just missed his personal best winning in 13.36 for his second national title. Xie, who ran 13.34 PB in the London semifinals, won his first Chinese title in 2008 being only 18 years old at the time.
There were good results in the field events too. In the High Jump rare competition in a domestic competition made Zhang Guowei fight hard for his second Chinese title. Zhang has been the clear number one since last season and placed fourth in Istanbul at the World Indoors with a 2.31m indoor National record in March. In this competition Beijing athlete Wang Yu made him work hard though. Wang, a 2.28m jumper in 2011 and with a 2.27m win at the National Student Games just last week, cleared every height with his first until 2.28m leaving Zhang to second place before 2.31m with just a second time clearance at 2.24m. But Zhang did find what was needed clearing equal PB 2.31m for the win before missing three attempts at 2.33m leaving Wang to second place.
There was a similar battle in the Pole Vault with surprise name Xue Changrui challenging national record holder (5.75m in 2010) Yang Yansheng for the win. The 21-year-old came to the competition with a 5.40m personal best (2012) and lead the competition after 5.40m having cleared this equal PB height with his first attempt. Yang, starting from 5.40m and clearing with his second try, was in second with 18-year-old junior star Zhang Wei passing this height having succeeded at 5.30m before. Yang passed the next height 5.50m with Zhang clearing with his first to take the lead and Xue leaving two tries to 5.60m following unsuccessful first attempt. Zhang didn’t manage to beat 5.60m this time finishing in third place equalling his 5.50m PB, but Xue staged a surprise going over 5.60m with his first attempt adding a huge 20cm to his personal best with one jump. Yang stayed in the competition with a third time clearance at 5.60m, but then took the title with another third attempt success at 5.70m, a season’s best.
16-year-old Wang Jianan was a shock winner in the Long Jump reaching eight metres for the first time during career with a 8.04m jump in round two, also the World Youth leader for 2012. Cao Shuo won the Triple Jump with 17.04m, his first 17-metre jump since April, when he set a big 17.35m PB.
In the Shot Put Wang Guangfu became only the third Chinese athlete to beat 20 metres winning with a 20.20 second round effort and also had another 20.02m throw in the next round. In the Javelin Throw, 27-year-old Zhao Qinggang beat the 80-metre line for the first time becoming the sixth Chinese over this distance. Zhao first beat his less than a week old PB 79.85m in the second round with 80.33m and improved to 81.74m personal best with his fifth attempt. Wang Qingbo was second with 78.92m season’s best.
In the Decathlon a result of 7573pts for the win was nothing spectacular, but it was Qi Haifeng’s 13th national title. The 29-year-old, who used to be world class in his younger days and set 8290 national record in Götzis 2005, and won astonishing 12 straight titles (including NCh, Olympic Trials and National Games) 2001-2009. He didn’t compete in 2007 and 2010 and placed third last year before returning to top podium in 2012. Like Liu Xiang (same age), Qi too has won unprecedented three National Games in a row and both of these athletes, given that they are not injured, can go for the impossible fourth title in this competition that is only held every four years just like the Olympics.