Athletes get to stay with old friends

Updated: 2012-07-18 08:05

By Cecily Liu in London (China Daily)

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Athletes get to stay with old friends

Fifteen from China's delegation are set to stay at St. Mary's in London again

St. Mary's University College will become the pre-Olympics training base for 15 Chinese athletes, the result of a cooperation that began two years ago.

The athletes, who represent China in long-distance running and race walking, will stay at the university, in southwest London, for about a week to acclimate to British conditions before heading to the Olympic Village, which is an hour away in east London.

The athletes will arrive at different times. The first will come on July 21, and the last will leave on Aug 12.

They will be accompanied by 35 support staff, including coaches, officials and a cook.

"We feel confident that the Chinese team will be satisfied with our facilities, as we have hosted them twice already," said Dick Fisher, head of 2012 preparations at the university.

In 2010, a St. Mary's coach was contacted by a Chinese counterpart, who asked if his team could use St. Mary's facilities for a short period of training.

"We managed to arrange that at fairly short notice, and the group came, and we found them pleasant and dignified people to be around," Fisher said.

The runners enjoyed their stay, and asked if they could come again the following year.

Fisher's team was "delighted", and the friendship grew.

Shortly after, the Chinese Athletics Federation made a formal approach to discuss the prospect of a pre-Olympics training camp.

China's star hurdler, Liu Xiang, also considered basing his pre-Olympics training at St. Mary's. He stayed for about three days to test the university's training facilities after competing at the Birmingham Grand Prix meet this February.

"Liu Xiang was impressed with the facilities. In the end, he decided to go somewhere else. But that's fine. He has to be where he needs to be," Fisher said.

Liu, as the favorite to win the 110m hurdles in 2008, shocked the world at Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium by pulling out in front of a capacity home crowd thanks to an Achilles injury.

After competing in the IAAF Diamond League London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace last Friday, he headed to Dusseldorf, in Germany, where he will be training for about 20 days, before heading to the Olympic Village in early August.

St. Mary's, famous for its endurance sports facilities, spent 1.5 million pounds ($2.35 million) to resurface its synthetic running track last year.

It also spent about 8.5 million pounds building a new sports center, which consists of a gym and a badminton hall. It also expanded its physiology lab and sports injury clinic.

(China Daily 07/18/2012 page24)