China’s medal winners at Doha world championships dedicate feats to nation’s 70th birthday
China’s Liang Rui celebrates after winning the women’s 50km race walk at the 2019 athletics world championships in Doha, Qatar, on Sept 29. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Team China marked the nation’s 70th birthday in style as patriotic pride spurred its athletes to glory at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last week.
A nine-medal haul, consisting equally of three gold, silver and bronze, was China’s best performance at the championships in 20 years.
All who stood on the podium for China were in agreement that thoughts of the national holiday and 70th anniversary celebrations back home had imbued their feats with extra significance.
“The race had a special meaning for me because it was held just before National Day (on Oct 1),” said former world record holder Liang Rui, who led a Chinese one-two finish along with Li Maocuo in the women’s 50-kilometer race walk on Sept 29.
“This victory is a birthday gift from me for my homeland.”
A day later, Olympic gold medalist Liu Hong and her teammates Qieyang Shijie and Yang Liujing swept the 20km race walk medals.
“Even before we came here, the team was confident of retaining the 20km title before National Day, and the only question was who would win it. Every one of us wanted to win the gold medal to pay tribute to our country,” said 32-year-old Liu, who returned to action in early 2019 after more than two years of maternity leave.
“This is the third time I have won at the world championships. I am very pleased that I won this time because tomorrow will be the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Winning all three medals, this achievement is our gift to our motherland.”
Gong Lijiao cannot contain her joy after retaining the shot-put title. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Hours before first light was shed on a sleepless Beijing as the capital prepared to stage a grand military parade and mass pageantry at Tian’anmen Square, sprinter Xie Zhenye was writing a piece of athletics history.
The 26-year-old became the first Chinese man to qualify for a 200m final at the world championships.
“Yes, I created some history. I did my best today and I am proud of myself, especially on this day,” said Xie, who qualified third-fastest in the semifinals.
He went on to finish seventh in the final on the night of Oct 1, while 6,000km away the National Day celebrations culminated in spectacular fireworks displays in Beijing.
Asian record holder Xie is confident he can make further strides at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
“I believe I have gone through the most difficult process, running in the strongest heat and in the inside lane in the final. I took this as a test and a learning opportunity for next year’s Olympics,” he said.
“Everyone on the team was trying to keep it steady this year because our bigger goal is Tokyo.”
As the National Day celebrations drew to a close, many people’s attention turned to travel, with a mind-boggling 542 million domestic tourists generating 453 billion yuan (US$64 billion) in revenue.
Liu Hong, Qieyang Shijie and Yang Liujing celebrate sweeping the 20km race walk medals on Sept 30. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
For anyone who elected to stay at home and relax, shot-put star Gong Lijiao provided yet more cheer on their TVs.
The defending champion retained her title on Oct 3 by fending off a strong challenge from Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd, eventually grabbing gold with a throw of 19.55 meters.
But, possessing a personal best of 20.43m, Gong was not completely satisfied with her day’s work.
“I’m so happy to win, but the result was well below my expectations,” said the 30-year-old.
“I worked out too much in the warm-up before the final and was dripping with sweat. So when the competition started, I felt like I was losing all my momentum, and the air conditioning in the stadium worked against me too.
“This is a lesson for me, and I will pay more attention to these details in Tokyo. My dream is obviously to win the title then,” added Gong, who has never won Olympic gold.
In the women’s javelin, Liu Shiying and Lyu Huihui brought home silver and bronze, respectively.
Having been an overwhelming favorite for gold, thanks to her four-month winning streak before the world championships, Lyu could not hide her disappointment at finishing third.
“I have already competed at two world championships, winning a silver and a bronze, and I really wanted a gold this time,” she said.
Liang Xiaojing comforts fellow sprinter Ge Manqi after China was disqualified from the 4x100m final because of an illegal changeover on Oct 6. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Any personal lows, however, were dwarfed by the immense feel-good factor generated by the team’s overall performance.
“I was so proud when I heard the national anthem on Oct 1. Those athletes who saw the national flags raised in the competition are the best,” said 2014 Olympic speed skating champion Zhang Hong of the 20km race walk medal ceremony.
Zhang, who hung up her skates last year, was in Doha as a representative of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission.
During her visit, she was appointed to the IOC’s Future Host Commission, which will monitor and encourage interest in the Summer, Winter and Youth Games.
“Since becoming an IOC member, I’ve learned more about athletes from other countries and regions. I didn’t realize how well we Chinese athletes are taken care of until I spoke to others,” Zhang said of her new career.
Chinese sprint star Su Bingtian could soon be following in her footsteps after the 30-year-old was nominated as one of 15 candidates for six available seats on the IAAF’s Athletes’ Commission.
“I met him in Doha the other day and gave him my encouragement. I hope he can be elected,” Zhang said.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe hailed the success of the championships in Doha.
Six new championship records were set in the Qatari capital, with 43 of the 208 competing teams winning medals.
“The world’s athletes have put on the best show in the history of the IAAF World Athletics Championships, according to the competition performance rankings which are used as an objective measure of the quality of international competition,” Coe said on Oct 6.
HONG KONG NEWS