With China leading the medals table at the 20th Asian athletics championships, and the Shanghai Diamond League a high-profile event in the IAAF Diamond League calendar, track and field is assumed to be popular among the Chinese youth. The on-going championships here is a supposed target for the Asian sporting giant to assert its hegemony.
According to Feng Shuyong, team leader for the championships, reality can be different from perception. Feng explains the logic behind his assertion that Chinese youth are not passionate about track and field, despite huge medal hauls at regional and continental events.
“Athletics is not popular as a career. The young generation prefers table tennis or badminton because these sports are easier to play. Athletics is tough (to compete in) at the Asian level.”
China is represented by a 42-member squad here — 18 male and 24 female competitors — taking part in 27 events overall. “Relatively, they are younger. We have better athletes back home who have qualified for the Moscow world championships next month,” said the Chinese contingent head.
One of Asia’s foremost nations, China believes in planning ahead. “We want to make use of the Asian championships to give young athletes a chance to compete with high-level Asians, and learn from other countries regardless of winning a medal or not. This (AAC) is the highest level and a good starting point for these athletes.”
The Chinese domination in sprints was maintained when defending men’s champion Su Bing Tian cruised to victory in the 100m, clocking 10.17 seconds, while Wei Yong Li was equally at ease in the women’s in 12.27. “If you noticed, they used the trunk as well as legs; other coaches build up the lower body and shoulders in sprinters,” said Shuyong.