Li Yanfeng of China wins the women's Discus Throw final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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World Discus champion Li Yanfeng opens well; Asian Javelin Throw record falls in Zhaoqing

Chinese athletes opened their domestic outdoor season this weekend (14/15 April) in Zhaoqing with a blast. Despite the fact that several of the best names were not competing, there were a few very good results suggesting at least top eight finishes if not medals in London at the 2012 Olympics can be predicted.

Spear record falls

In the women’s Javelin Throw the Asian record of 63.92m set by Wei Jianhua in September 2000, more than 11 years ago, finally fell. 22-year-old Henan thrower Lu Huihui continued her quick rise to the top hitting a 64.95m release in her second meet of the season.

She had already come close a month ago in Chengdu when she added a huge five metres and six centimetres to her previous best with a 63.78m opener. Lu Huihui, who is now second in the 2012 world list only 29cm behind Martina Ratej’s (SLO) world leader 65.29m, is an absolute newcomer at this level. She reached 50 metres for the first time only in 2010 with a 55.35m best then, but did not even make the National Championships final then. Last year she improved to 58.72m, but again could only finish in 13th place at National Championships. She has not competed at the National Games nor the City Games, so her major championships experience is nonexistent.

Other javelin throwers have bettered their results too this season with 23-year-old Li Lingwei improving to 61.98m with a second place here, only her second competition over 60m during career in addition to her previous PB 60.60m in 2010. Li Lingwei was second at the 2008 World Junior Championships and third at the 2010 Asian Games.

In the men’s Javelin Throw there was good start too for Qin Qiang, who won with a 80.77m season opener, his second best career result and best in three years since PB 81.48m in May 2009.

Triple Jump battle decided 17.38 to 17.35m

Another top event was the men’s Triple Jump. With Asian record holder (17.59m in 2009) Li Yanxi battling with injuries, several other jumpers have taken steps forward and two of them took great strides towards the world elite in this meet. 23-year-old Dong Bin won with a big personal best 17.38m taking the third place in the world list this season.

The Hunan jumper from city of Changsha has matured to the top level during the last five years. He was a decent level junior reaching 16.25m as a junior, but did not make the World Junior Championships final in 2006. He progressed to 16.54m in 2008, 16.65m in 2009 and then jumped 16.86m in both 2010 and 2011 surpassing the 17m line outdoors for the first time in July 2011 with a wind aided (+2.1) 17.05m jump. Dong Bin had set a 17.01m national indoor record in February 2011 and did equal that result winning the Asian Indoor Championships in Hangzhou this winter. He then went on to qualify for the World Indoor Championships final in Istanbul where he finished in eighth place with a 16.75m result (16.94m qual).

In second place this weekend in Zhaoqing, just a mere three centimetres back, 20-year-old Cao Shuo jumped 17.35m PB. Cao Shuo has a completely different story from Dong Bin, as he was very promising already as a youth athlete. In May 2009 he reached 17 metres for the first jumping 17.13m result to win the National Championships in Yulin, the best ever result in the world for a 17-year-old. The progress did not come instantly though as he jumped 16.85m in 2010 and 16.86m in 2011, but winter 2012 proved to be a stepping ladder. Cao Shuo jumped 17m again with a 17.00m winning mark indoors in Nanjing in February, almost three years after his first and only 17m jump before this. He then equalled the national record 17.01m finishing in second place at the Asian Indoor Championships in Hangzhou only losing the title with his second best mark to Dong Bin.

World champion begins Olympic campaign well

In the women’s World Discus Throw champion Li Yanfeng opened her season with a 64.90m winning throw and Tan Jian was second with a 63.87m personal best.

In other events a totally new name came up in the men’s 100m. 21-year-old Xu Jun, who has not competed in national meets before 2012, took a convincing win in the 100m final clocking a fast 10.29 sec PB.

Elsewhere the top 400m Hurdles duo, who dipped well under 50 seconds last season, did not quite reach those kinds of results, but the opening race was close. Cheng Wen won in 50.36sec ahead of Li Zhilong’s 50.41.

Huang Xiaoxiao – back from injury

In the women’s 400m Hurdles Huang Xiaoxiao proved that she is finally back in shape. After finishing in fifth place in two successive World Championships in 2005 and 2007, the 29-year-old from Shandong has been battling with injuries. She was in good shape before the Beijing Olympics running 54.50 in May 2008, but injuries forced out of the maybe biggest meet of her career. She then reappeared more than a year later only running one final before reaching the semifinals at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, but then again suffered more setbacks and was absent until late 2011. Here she won her heat in 55.47 before winning the final with exactly the same time. This is the best season opening result in Huang Xiaoxiao’s career and takes her to third place in the 2012 world list.

Some other top women opened their seasons here too. 23-year-old Zheng Xingjuan won the High Jump with 1.92m and is in good shape. Zheng didn’t reach the final at the World Indoor Championships, but has potential in the Olympics Games. She was in equal sixth place in Daegu at the World Championships last year equaling 1.95m personal best in the qualification there.

Zhang Wenxiu and Gong Lijiao – medals contenders in London

In the Hammer Throw, Zhang Wenxiu won with a 71.04m toss this time, but she is already the world leader having thrown a 75.72m Asian record in Chengdu a month ago. Zhang Wenxiu is the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist and has won two World Championships bronze medals too, the latest coming in Daegu last year.

In the Shot Put, Gong Lijiao started her 2012 campaign with a 19.08m winning result. Gong Lijiao was the bronze medallist at the 2009 Berlin World Championships and narrowly lost a medal in Daegu last year finishing in fourth place there.

In the women’s 3000m Steeplechase Jin Yuan achieved an early world leader 9:45.92 closely followed by Li Zhenzhu in 9:49.00. Ha Xianping took the women sprints winning 100m in 11.45 personal best and 200m in 23.58 season’s best. Yang Yansheng won the men’s pole vault with a 5.60m clearance and in the Long Jump Li Jinzhe opened with a 7.91m win before Zhang Xiaoyi’s 7.85m for the second place.

Wonder Youth

But there was even a bigger Long Jump result in the multi-events. 15-year-old Wang Jianan (born 27 August 1996) emerged as a youth combined events star in the winter winning the Heptathlon competition indoors in Nanjing, but his results in the first senior Decathlon were even more spectacular. He is far away from setting records in the decathlon of course, his Shot Put result was only 8.53m here, but in some events he is ready. Wang started the competition with a fast 10.88 100m and the hit the jackpot in the Long Jump with a 7.80m personal best, the best ever result by a 15-year-old in the world surpassing Spaniard Jesús Oliván’s 7.71m in Madrid 1984.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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