Olympic champion Chen Ding leads Chinese team for IAAF worlds

Updated: 2013-08-10 10:27


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MOSCOW - Chinese race walkers, spearheaded by Olympic champion Chen Ding, will carry on Chinese team's hope for gold medals in the 2013 IAAF World Championships to open here on Saturday.

Chinese race walking team harvested one gold and three bronze medals at the 2012 London Olympic Games, with a dogged Chen Ding coming from nowhere to take the men's 20km walk gold and set a new Olympic record. It is the first Olympic gold won by a Chinese male walker and also the second Olympic gold won by a Chinese male track and field athlete following the country's hurdling star Liu Xiang's victory in 2004.

After the London Games, the Yunnan native, who just celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, has been suffering from an injury-plagued new season. Chen barely finished in any big race in 2013 and scratched from the Chinese National Games in May. After two-month training camp in Changbai Mountain in northeastern China, a healthy Chen is ready to improve his success in London is not a flash in the pan.

"I heard Russia wanted to sweep all the 9 medals in race walking. The Russian walkers are indeed very strong and they will be racing on their home soil," said Chen. "I can not control other people's thought, what I can do is to train harder and make sure I am fully prepared. "

"They want to sweep all the medals. But it won't be an easy job. I have faith in myself," said a confident Chen.

Chen will not fight alone in Moscow as his teammate Wang Zhen and Cai Zelin, who finished third and fourth in London, will also charged for the world title. The 22-year-old Wang will be enjoying a mental edge when facing the Russians in Moscow as he outwalked all the local walkers to collect his first world title at the 2012 IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Saransk, Russia.

In the women's 20km event, China's Liu Hong, runner-up in 2011 Daegu worlds, and Qieyang Shijie, who earned a bronze medal at the London Games, are both serious contenders for the women's title. Joined by teammates Sun Huanhuan, the Chinese girls try to stop Russia's Olympic and World Cup champion Elena Lashmanova from achieving the "Grand Slam" on her home soil.

The withdrawal of women's discus defending champion Li Yanfeng is a big blow for the Chinese throws legion. The 34-year-old Li, who claimed the title at the 2011 Daegu worlds in South Korea with a winning mark of 66.52 meters, will not compete in Moscow due to a haunting waist injury.

After the London Games, Li never managed to maintain systemic training because of the lumbar disc herniation. According to her coach Zhang Jinglong, Li only threw a best mark of 58.90m in a warmup in late July and achieved 60.12 at a provincial athletic meet in her hometown Heilongjiang province last Sunday.

"Li is still not ready for high-level competitions like the World Championships. With her current form, Li even may not be able to make it from the qualification rounds," Zhang said.

"Although she already assured a berth in the worlds as the reigning champion, it will be meaningless or even a blow to her confidence if she fails in Moscow."

The medal hope for Chinese throwers will be carried on by Olympic bronze medalist Gong Lijiao in women's shot put. She threw a season-best 20.12m at the Diamond League Eugene meet in May and ranked fourth in the world top list this season.

The 23-year-old Li Jinzhe is also competitive in men's long jump event. The Beijing native's winning mark of 8.34m at Diamond League Shanghai meet ranked fourth on the world top list. He also jumped 8.31m to win the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing. But fighting for the gold will not be easy for Li, as Luis Rivera of Mexico and Aleksandr Menkov of Russia produced over-8.40m marks at Kazan Universiade last month.

The men's 100m race in Moscow may witness a long-waited breakthrough for China as the country's sprinters have strived for generations to make into men's 100m final in major competitions. China's Zhang Peimeng and Su Bingtian achieved huge progress this season as Zhang has trimmed the national record to 10.04s and Su claimed the Asian Championships title in 10.06s.

With the defending champ Yohan Blake of Jamaica injured out and Asafa Powell and American sprinter Tyson Gay quitting for doping, the Chinese duo have already set their eyes on the final berth in Moscow.