Chinese athletes seek Olympic qualifications through competitions

Huang Bokai of China competes in the Men's Pole Vault during 2024 Diamond League Xiamen on April 20, 2024 in Xiamen, China. Photo: VCG

Huang Bokai of China competes in the Men’s Pole Vault during 2024 Diamond League Xiamen on April 20, 2024 in Xiamen, China. Photo: VCG

Chinese athletes are making headlines at the World Athletics Diamond League series, which kicked off the 2024 season on Saturday in Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province, with impressive performances from athletes like Liu Dezhu and Gong Lijiao.

As the track and field events for the Paris Olympics will take place at the Stade de France from August 1 to 11, Chinese track and field athletes are honing their skills to gear up for the competition.

After Swedish star Armand Duplantis invigorated the Diamond League race with a world record-setting pole vault of 6.24 meters, Chinese distance runner Liu Dezhu set a new pace in the 800 meters race, lowering the previous national record of 1:46.32, set 10 years ago by Teng Haining, to 1:45.66.

Apart from Liu’s breakthrough, China, as the host, had many top athletes compete, earning one gold and three bronze medals in the events. On top of Gong Lijiao winning the women’s shot put with a throw of 19.72 meters, Huang Bokai, Feng Bin, and Su Wen won bronze medals in the men’s pole vault, women’s discus throw, and men’s triple jump, respectively.

With the conclusion of the National Indoor Athletics Championships at the end of March, followed by the National Athletics Grand Prix and the World Athletics Diamond League, the track and field season has transitioned from indoors to outdoors.

Liu’s national record-setting performance, however, is still shy of an Olympic qualification of 1:44.70. His coach Shi Peng has said the team will strive for more opportunities to compete and aim to secure Olympic qualifications through world ranking points.

As the outdoor season unfolds, the Chinese team is also accelerating its pace in seeking Olympic qualifications. Xie Zhenye, the Asian record holder in the men’s 200 meters, qualified for the Olympics with a 20.15 second finish in the US earlier in April.

Besides Xie’s qualification, Chen Jiapeng finished a 100 meters in 10.08 seconds, making him the fifth Chinese male sprinter to break the 10.10-second barrier after Su Bingtian, Xie, Zhang Peimeng and Chen Guanfeng.

Though some promising signs have appeared, Chinese track and field still faces considerable challenges.

One major challenge is the one faced by the men’s 4×100-meter relay team, who are considered one of the pillars that underlines team spirit in the individual-dominated sport of running.

The team, consisting of Xie and veteran sprinter Su Bingtian, will make their final push for Olympic qualification in May at the World Relay Championships, following a mediocre performance in March with 38.99 seconds, slower than their record of 37.79 seconds.

With another Diamond League race to be held in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province, this weekend, Chinese athletes will have fresh chances to attain Olympic qualification if better performances are delivered.

More efforts are needed to increase the squad depth of Chinese athletics, as more and more athletics events are to be held in the country, led by a World Championships in 2027 in Beijing.

If China wants to take the lead in the athletics competition at the Paris Olympics, the team will need to make more effort. Fortunately, Chinese athletes are always prepared to rise to the challenge, fueled by their resilience and unwavering determination.