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Chinese set-out on road to Bydgoszcz - 6th City Games begin in Wuhan

The athletics competition of 6th City Games of China kicked off yesterday (29) in Wuhan, Hubei province, central China. The fourth biggest city in China with 9.7 million inhabitants is playing the host to this the second most important of all sports meetings in China. While the prestigious National Games is the most important, for junior athletes the City Games is number one.

This year’s edition has special importance because it should indicate Chinese prospects ahead of IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics, Bydgoszcz, Poland (8-13 July 2008), even though some of the athletes on show in Wuhan will not be eligible given that those born 1987 to 1991 can compete whereas the qualification age for the global meet in 2008 covers the years 1989 to 1992.**

A few of the athletes competing in Wuhan will also be candidates for inclusion in the national team for the Beijing Olympics later next summer. Most recently, 2004 Olympic winners Liu Xiang and Xing Huina who were both winners at this meet in their junior days can testify to the quality of the City Games competition.

Impressive history

The first City Games was held in Jinan in 1988, the second in Tangshan 1991. After the Tangshan meet the usual four-year cycle was introduced and the 1995 Games in Nanjing already witnessed some world class performances. In the men’s 10,000m Dong Jianmin set the still standing national record 28:10.03 and Wang Yinhang set the World junior best over 20000m track walk with 1:20:40.3. On the women’s side Jiang Bo took a surprise win over Wang Junxia in the 5000m setting then a World junior record 14:45.90. In the 400m Hurdles Li Rui ran a World youth best 55.30.

The Xi’an Games in 1999 marked the start of a new era in Chinese athletics. 16-year-old Shanghai hurdler Liu Xiang made his first appearance in a major national competition. Liu managed a very good 14.29 clocking against a headwind, but went out of the final as the fastest loser. Four years later he grabbed an easy win in Changsha with a 13.31 winning time.

The fifth Games in Changsa 2003 again had some records broken. Dou Zhaobo won the men’s 1500m in a national record 3:36.49 and Xue Juan set the World junior record (and World youth best as well) in the Javelin Throw with a 62.93m result. Two of the winners of those 2003 Games, Liu Xiang (110mH) and Xing Huina (women's 10,000m), went on to win at the Olympics in Athens the following year.

Cold conditions

The first day (Mon 29) of the competition in these 6th Games got underway in almost freezing conditions. The temperature was only 9C at the start of the meeting, but the weather promises to be better tomorrow with 21C forecast.

Naturally the cold weather was a factor, but there were still good results in the sprints heats. Only the women’s Long Jump seemed to suffer from the cold and the rain with the addition of head wind as well.

In the three finals of the first day – men’s Shot, women’s Long Jump and Hammer Throw - the best result was achieved in the men’s Shot Put. 2006 World Junior Championships bronze medallist, Guo Yanxiang, won with a big personal best 19.22m, his first 19m result of career. 20-year-old Guo, competing for Yantai city from Shandong province, has made good progress during his first senior season and crushed the earlier competition record 18.44m from 1991. Wang Guangtu was second with 18.11m result, and 18-year-old Wang Like, former holder of the World youth best, was third at 18.02m, only 2cm from his season’s best.

In the women’s Long Jump one of the favourites, 17-year-old Li Yanmei, competing for Guangzhou, lived up to the expectation and won the event with a 6.27m jump, coming quite close to her 6.35m personal best from this summer despite the bad weather conditions. Sha Li was second at 6.17m and surprise name Cai Lipiao set a personal best for third place with a 6.08m result. Zhong Yuan, who was second already at the 2005 National Games with a personal best 6.50m and had second best result this season, was disappointed with her 17th place and a lowly 5.71m best jump. Both Li and Sha are also top names for the triple jump competition later this week and will be looking to double their medal count there.

In the women’s Hammer Throw number one seed Hao Shuai took the expected win, but by only a margin of 8cm. 20-year-old Hao, who competed in the 2006 Beijing Woirld Juniors and is of course too old for Bydgoszcz 2008, has thrown a 68.77m PB this season. However, in Wuhan she had to settle for a 64.12m winning mark which would not have been even enough for a medal at the 2003 Games where 2007 World Championships bronze medallist Zhang Wenxiu won with a 70.22m competition record. Second in this year’s competition was Wang Zheng throwing a 64.04m personal best. Wang Yang was the third 60m thrower of the day securing third place with 0.91m.

Good dash times

Despite the freezing weather sprinters ran some good times in the 100m heats. The two best Chinese sprinters of this season, Zhang Peimeng (10.27) and Wen Yongyi (10.28) grabbed convincing heats wins. Zhang won the first heat in 10.49 seconds with Wen taking the second with the fastest time 10.43. 18-year-old Su Bingtian will challenge the pair in the final following his 10.45 personal best in heat three.

In the women’s 100m heats, six out of eight finalists set personal bests. Jiang Lan won heat one in 11.49 personal best with also Wang Jing setting a personal best 11.51 in second place. Chen Jue won the second heat with a 11.50 personal best, while 16-year-old Ha Xianping won heat three in 11.56s, a PB as well.

In the women’s 100m Hurdles heats Sun Yawei was fastest with 13.43 seconds result, only 0.01s off her personal best. Both men’s and women’s 1500m heats were run at near walking pace and all the favourites got to the final. The same went for the women’s 400m heats where Chen Jingwen was the fastest with a moderate 54.12 clocking.

Day two, Tuesday 30, will be much warmer, around 20C temperature according to the weather forecast. It will also be a big final day with a total of 11 finals and the first day of Heptathlon.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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**NOTE: Any athlete under the age of 20 years but of at least 16 years of age on 31 December 2008 (that covers the year's 1989-1992) may compete in IAAF World Junior Championships in Athletics Bydgoszcz, Poland (8-13 July 2008).