China's Li Ling wins the Pole Vault (© Getty Images)
The 12th National Games got off to a real start on Sunday (8) in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, with a total of 13 finals during the second day of competition following the two finals on Saturday.
All of the best athletes in the country are competing and naturally those who did well in Moscow at the IAAF World Championships were also in the spotlight at the National Games.
The best result on Sunday was Li Ling's 4.65m Asian Pole Vault record, Li Jinzhe’s competition record of 8.34m in the men's Long Jump, and a fast 100m won by Zhang Peimeng in 10.08.
Since first claiming the record with 4.35m in May 2000, Gao Shuying has held the Asian record in the women's pole vault for more than 13 years with her last record – 4.64m from New York in June 2007 – lasting until today.
It was only matter of time before Li would break the record as she had cleared 4.54m and 4.55m in 2013, the latter for fifth place in the qualification round at the World Championships in Moscow. Li's first three tries at 4.65m were unsuccessful when she won the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing in May with 4.50m, but this time she only needed one attempt and recorded only one failure during the whole competition.
Li’s 4.65m Asian record led the best ever national competition in China with 19-year-old Ren Mengqian finishing second and Wu Sha in third, both equalling their personal bests of 4.40m.
Championship records from Li and Zhang
In the men’s Long Jump, there was only one favourite. Li Jinzhe, who jumped an 8.34m personal best to win the Shanghai IAAF Diamond League meeting in May and placed second at the 2009 National Games at the age of 20 with a 8.18m PB, did not find his best form in Moscow, finishing only in 12th with 7.86m.
But in Shenyang, Li did not leave it late and was a joint leader after round one with 7.91m, before his second-round effort of 8.19m in windless conditions put the title beyond the reach of others.
Li then went on to equal his personal best of 8.34m in round four, despite a negative 0.6 m/s wind, and won comfortably ahead of Su Xiongfeng, who was second with a 8.08m season’s best.
Li's 8.34m also eclipsed the previous competition record of 8.27m from 2009 by Zhang Xiaoyi, who was fifth today with a 7.96m season's best. Zhang Yaoguang was third with 7.98m and 19-year-old junior Huang Changzhou was third with a 7.97m personal best.
There was much hype around the men’s 100m final and for a good reason. China has two world-class sprinters, who both reached the Moscow World Championships semifinals with 26-year-old Zhang Peimeng clocking a 10.00 national record there.
The previous national record-holder Su Bingtian, who ran 10.16 in 2011, has also stepped up this season, clocking a 10.06 personal best in Beijing in May. Both athletes ran in the 2009 National Games final with Zhang finishing in second place and Su fifth, and today their order was the same.
Zhang crossed the finish line in 10.08, smashing Zhou Wei’s previous competition record of 10.22 from the prestigious 1997 Games. A helpful 1.1 m/s following wind aided the runners as Su was second in 10.12, his second-best career clocking in what was easily the best ever national competition in China.
Zhang and Gong successfully defend throws titles
In the women’s Hammer, the competition was expected to be an epic battle between the third and fourth-place finishers from the World Championships in Moscow, but Wang Zheng, who had surprised everyone with big personal bests in both qualification and the final in Moscow, was not up to the task on Saturday.
Wang, who threw a 74.90m PB in the Moscow final, only broke 70m in round four before improving to 71.48m in round five to finish second. Moscow bronze medallist Zhang Wenxiu had an easy task of winning her second successive National Games title with a winning throw of 73.68m.
In the women’s Shot Put, Moscow bronze medallist Gong Lijiao had no problems at all winning her second straight National Games title with her third-round effort of 19.75m. Liu Xiangrong was third with 18.45m and Li Ling third with 18.40m.
The top five in the women’s 100m Hurdles final produced their best marks of the season with Wu Shujiao winning in a personal best of 12.96. Sun Yawei was second in a 13.01 season’s best and Wang Dou third with a PB of 13.09.
Zhao Jing won the 1500m in a season’s best of 4:12.32, while Zhao Yanmin clocked a 52.15 PB for the 400m win. Tao Yujia won the 100m final in 11.48, equalling her season's best from the heats, and Wang Qingling won the Heptathlon with a personal best of 5785.
Surprising depth in Hammer and Pole Vault
In the rest of the men’s events, it was the best ever Chinese competition in the men’s Hammer. 24-year-old Wang Shizhu, competing for the Liaoning Province in front of his home crowd, entered the competition with a PB of 73.25m, but managed to break 73 metres five times in Shenyang and became only the second Chinese in history to surpass 75 metres.
He ended his winning series with a personal best of 75.20m, more than a two-metre improvement on the previous competition record from 2001. It was the best mark by a Chinese athlete for 24 years, bettered only by Bi Zhong’s 77.04m national record from 1989.
Wan Yong was second with a 73.87m PB, Qi Dakai third with 71.82m and 2009 defending champion Ma Liang was fourth with a 70.63m season’s best.
In the Pole Vault, Moscow finalist Xue Changrui was the winner in the best ever domestic Pole Vault competition in China.
The 22-year-old cleared 5.60m before making one attempt at 5.76m national record height. Yang Yangsheng, who was in great form during the indoor season clearing 5.80m national indoor record and coming close to clearing 5.90m, capped a disappointing outdoor campaign with a 5.50m season’s best clearance for second place.
The next three athletes set personal bests as Yao Jie was third with 5.50m, Zhou Bo finished fourth with 5.45m and Lu Yao was fifth with 5.40m. In sixth, 19-year-old Zhang Wei set a season’s best of 5.40m.
Chen Jianxin won the 400m in a 46.19 PB, Zhang Haikun took the 1500m title in 3:41.27, and Wang Yashuan topped the 3000m Steeplechase with a PB of 8:37.66.
Tomorrow’s events include the 200m heats, where 100m winner Zhang Peimeng returns to the track, and the 110m Hurdles final, where Liu Xiang will not defend his title. Liu had won the previous three titles between 2001-2009 prior to his latest injury.
The women’s Discus, a straight final, will also be held tomorrow with 2011 Daegu World champion Li Yanfeng returning to competition after a bad back injury which has kept her off the field all summer.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF