Weng Kangqiang at the 2019 Hypomeeting Götzis (© Michelle Sammet)
by Kangqiang Weng
You might not remember me, but even after 35 years, you haven’t changed much.
Let me introduce myself: my name is Kangqiang Weng from China. I’m 61-years-old, and back in the day I used to be a decathlete.
I came to this little town in Austria to compete some 35 years ago, in 1984. That was my first and only time to compete here, at the prestigious multi-events Hypomeeting. Ever since, you have left a deep and wonderful impression with me.
Until 1984, my country hadn’t participated in a Summer Olympics since 1952, but finally that year, we were lucky to be given the chance to line up in the Los Angeles Olympic Games – the first group of track and field athletes representing the PR of China in an Olympics.
The Hypomeeting Götzis organisers heard that we were going to Los Angeles, so they invited four Chinese athletes – two decathletes and two heptathletes – to compete here that May.
Admittedly, our personal bests might not have been good enough to indicate we would be able to compete with the top names usually lining up in Götzis, but they gave us the opportunity regardless.
I was so excited. It was a huge positive energy for me.
The audience is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable – for me, Europe is worthy of the title of the birthplace of multi-events. The athletes have plenty of competitions and opportunities to meet. But there are very few combined events competitions in Asia, which is why the invitation to Götzis was so important for us before the Olympics.
I scored 7349 points and was the highest ranked Asian athlete that weekend, finishing 16th. My compatriot Chen Zebin scored 7254 points to finish 19th. It wasn’t my best performance, but it was a vital experience ahead of Los Angeles, to test ourselves against the likes of Siegfried Wentz and other top names.
I loved everything about the competition and swore to myself that I would return one day.
In Los Angeles, I made my Olympic debut. I scored a personal best – 7662 points – and finished 15th. In my speciality event, the javelin, I was the second-best decathlete out of all of us.
And that’s what I love about this event.
The biggest attraction of multi-events is that we experience so many twists to finish our competition. It’s two days full of suspense. You may be very good at a single event, but you may not be able to come out on top in the end. On the contrary, it is quite common that an athlete won’t lead in any of the events, but he finishes as the overall champion.
Now you might be wondering why I’m back here in Götzis after such a long time of absence. Well, I told you one day I’d return.
In January 2017, I met Yujia Dou, a Chinese journalist who travels to a lot of international competitions. I told him about my experience in Götzis in 1984, and that I was still planning to go back at some point. He promised me that if I would go, he would accompany me. And he kept his promise.
I turned 61 this year and retired, so there is no time limit for me to travel – and 35 years seemed like a special anniversary to be returning to a place that means so much to me.
This time, of course, I wasn’t here to compete. I have been a coach for many years and even though I am retired now, I am still involved in athletics education and multi-events in China. So the biggest goal of my second time here in Götzis was to learn, to enjoy the meeting, to see old friends, also to express my deep gratitude to them.
The other reason I hold Götzis so dear to my heart, is because it seems to be a lucky place for other Chinese athletes, too. The national decathlon record was set here in 2005 by Qi Haifeng. He scored 8290 points and finished fourth. The great Roman Sebrle won that year.
So far, 1984 and 2005 are the only two times Chinese athletes have lined up in Götzis. We have a way to go still, to reach the highest level, but I hope that one day, Chinese decathletes and heptathletes will be a regular sight in Austria.
Until then, Hypomeeting Götzis, please don’t change one bit. In return, I promise I won’t leave it another 35 years until I come back to visit – and I’ll be bringing more Chinese multi-eventers with me.
Special thanks to Yujia Dou for helping Kangqiang Weng share his story with us.