Chinese race walker Yang Jiayu (© AFP / Getty Images)
World champion Yang Jiayu proved her victory in London three weeks ago was not just a flash in the pan, as she withstood challenges from Qieyang Shijie in the last kilometre to win the 20km race walk at the Chinese National Games in Tianjin on Sunday (3).
The 21-year-old clocked 1:28:29 to win the gold medal, four seconds ahead of Qieyang, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist. Li Leilei from Tianjin clocked 1:34:37 to grab the bronze medal in front of a jubilant local crowd.
“Winning at the World Championships was a big boost of confidence for me and these two titles will encourage me to train even harder in the future,” said Yang, who trimmed 17 seconds off her personal best to claim the world title in London in 1:26:18.
“But once I stepped off the podium, it was a brand new start for me,” she added. “My next goals will be the 2019 World Championships as well as the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
In spite of the absence of world record-holder and Olympic champion Liu Hong, who is currently pregnant, the women’s 20km race walk was still a high-quality race. A fast lead group, including Yang, Qieyang, 2015 world silver medallist Lyu Xiuzhi, and Wang Na, who finished eighth at the World Championships last month, paced the race in the early stages.
Wang was disqualified before halfway. Defending champion Lyu, who was disqualified last month in London in the home straight with a chance of podium finish at her fingertips, was once again sent out by the referee with five kilometres to go. Yang and Qieyang then led side by side until the last kilometre before the in-from Yang pulled away in style for the win.
In the men’s 20km race walk, world leader Wang Kaihua clocked 1:20:52 to take the victory.
“I just want to prove myself with this gold medal,” said the seventh-place finisher from the World Championships in London, who was in flying form earlier this year and set a PB of 1:17:54 in March to sit on top of the 2017 world list.
“Four years ago I missed the National Games due to injuries,” said the 23-year-old. “This time I have given it all out.”
Bian Tongda finished second in 1:21:01 and the bronze medal went to Chen Rui who hit home with a 1:21:59 clocking.
Chen Ding, the 2012 Olympic champion, settled for fifth place in a season’s best of 1:23:02, while Olympic silver medallist Cai Zelin was disqualified after 18 kilometres. Olympic champion Wang Zhen chose to skip the competition.
Xie stuns Su, while Guo breaks national 400m record
In the heavily hyped men’s 100m, national record-holder and two-time World Championships finalist Su Bingtian was stunned by 2010 youth Olympic champion Xie Zhenye, who cut 0.04 off his PB to win in 10.04.
In the process, Xie moved up to third on the Chinese all-time list for 100m. Su trailed 0.06 behind to finish second. Xu Haiyang finished third in 10.28.
In the men’s 400m, 21-year-old Guo Zhongze took more than half a second off his PB to win in a national record of 45.14, breaking the long-standing mark of 45.25 set by Xu Zizhou back in 2001.
Lu Zhiquan finished second in 46.08 while Wu Yuang took the bronze in 46.27.
Having finished second and third respectively at the World Championships, world silver medallist Li Lingwei once again beat Lyu Huihui in the women’s javelin.
Thanks to her second-round effort of 64.07m, Li celebrated the gold medal with tears of joy while Lyu took the silver with 62.70m. Zhang Li took the bronze at 61.32m.
World indoor champion Dong Bin shrugged off the muscle injury in his left leg which forced him to withdraw from the World Championships in London to win a close men’s triple jump final that saw the top three finishers separated by just one centimetre.
Zhu Yaming, whose previous PB was 17.17m, and Dong both jumped 17.23m. Zhu’s second-best jump of 17.08m was seven centimetres shy of that of Dong and so had to settle for the silver medal. Defending champion Cao Shuo finished third with 17.22m.
The women’s pole vault on Saturday also witnessed a tight competition with the podium finishers all clearing 4.40m. Xu Huiqin grabbed the gold medal after count-back. Asian record holder Li Ling finished second followed by Ren Mengqian who needed three attempts to clear 4.30m.
The athletics competitions of the National Games started on Saturday (2) and will conclude next Thursday (7) with a total of 44 gold medals on offer. The men’s and women’s marathons were held in April, long before the opening of the quadrennial multi-sport tournament last Sunday.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF