15 May, 2016

China’s jumpers lead the way as relay boys power to victory

It was Huang Changzhou who claimed China is now “a powerhouse in men’s long jumping” last Thursday, but it was his young friend and rival Gao Xinglong who overcame an ankle injury to claim the hosts’ only individual victory of the 2016 Shanghai Diamond League.

With Zhang Guowei and Wang Yu taking second and third in the high jump, it was the host nation’s jumpers who led the way to Diamond League points before Xie Wenjun and Zhang Peimeng brought the meeting to a thunderous conclusion with podium performances in the final two events of the night.
Xie shrugged off the distraction of two false starts to finish third in the men’s sprint hurdles while Zhang anchored China’s world silver medal-winning sprint relay team to a crowd-pleasing victory in a meeting record.

Gao took only three attempts in the much-anticipated men’s long jump but his second round effort of 8.14 was enough to clinch the 10 Diamond League points by the narrowest of margins from Rushwal Samaai.
No-one threatened the South African’s world lead of 8.34, but Gao delighted the fans by holding on for victory thanks to his second best effort of 8.09, just 2cm better than Samaai’s follow-up. With Huang back in seventh, two places behind Beijing World Championship bronze medallist Wang Jianan, Gao was the sole member of China’s talented trio to make the podium. The Asian champion was 20cm short of his best and surprised to win. “I had a little pain in my ankle after two jumps which stopped me pushing myself to my best for the rest of the competition,” said the 22-year-old, who just missed a medal in Beijing last summer. “I was surprised at the result since it was not my best. Now I will focus on my injury before taking part in Diamond League meetings in Europe.”

If Gao was surprised to win, Zhang Guowei was disappointed to lose. The showman high jumper kept the noisy crowd royally entertained during the warm-up with his preying mantis pose and saluting gestures. But the expected duel with 2013 world champion Bohdan Bondarenko failed to hit the heights when four athletes topped out at 2.28.

The pair were inseparable at the Beijing Worlds last August when they shared the silver medal, and there was little to choose between them on Saturday night as the Ukrainian squeezed out a victory on countback with Zhang second and Wang Yu third.

“I am not satisfied with today’s performance,” said Zhang, who leapt 2.33 in Kawasaki last weekend to share the world lead with Wang and USA’s Erik Kynard.
 “I hope to perform my best in Rio and stand on the medal podium,” he added. Wang’s emergence as a rival to Zhang means China is now gathering strength in depth in the men’s high jump much as they have in the horizontal version. Bondarenko, a 2.42 man at his best, blamed unfamiliar new spikes for his failure to perform as expected.
Xie could easily have been blown away by two false starts in the men’s 110m hurdles, the event that’s become the meeting’s traditional curtain call thanks to a certain local track hero called Liu Xiang who won here three times during his sparkling career.
Xie is the only other man to win the meeting’s showcase event, last year’s Asian champion shocking the world-class field to take victory two years ago.The 25-year-old couldn’t quite repeat that on Saturday, but he held his nerve for third as two flying Jamaicans zipped over the barriers ahead of him. It was Omar McLeod who lapped up the plaudits as the world indoor champion followed his bullet start with a perfectly controlled race to win in 12.98, the year’s first sub-13 and just 0.01s outside Liu’s meeting record. Hansle Parchment was second in 13.12 while Xie ran his quickest race of the year to clock 13.34, a performance which left two world champions adrift after the Olympic champion, Aries Merritt, had blown his chances with a false start. “The two false starts affected me a little bit but it ended well,’ said Xie. “I had a nice race today.”

There was a nice finish to the night’s events too, as Zhang and the 4x100m boys flew to a meeting record of 38.71 to beat Jamaica MVP.
The 2009 Asian 100m champion took the baton from Su Bingtian after Xie Zhenye and Chen Shiwei had put the hosts in the lead over the first two legs. Zhang was half a stride ahead of Ronald Levy and rode a wave of noise as the screams of the fans brought him home. The Jamaican MVP squad were second in 38.85 with a mixed international team third in 38.85. “The result is satisfying,” said anchorman Zhang afterwards. “Today we had a normal race but we need to work on the relay part.” “We will prepare for Rio and hope to finish in the top three,” added Su.
It was a welcome way to round things off for Xie Zhenye after he and Mo Youxue failed to make an impact in the men’s 100m, won by defending Diamond Race champion Justin Gatlin in 9.94.

Elsewhere, Su Xinyue produced a lifetime best of 64.45 to finish fourth in a women’s discus competition won by Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic in a Diamond League and meeting record of 70.88.
“I will aim for the top three in Rio,” said Su. No other Chinese athlete threatened the points places, but there were personal bests for Zhao Jing and Zheng Xiaoqian in the women’s 1500m where Faith Kipyegon broke her own Kenyan record and Genzebe Dibaba’s meeting record with a world lead of 3:56.82. And Yao Jie was just 3cm short of his PB, clearing 5.62 to finish sixth in the men’s pole vault as Sam Kendricks inflicted a surprise defeat on world record holder and six-time Diamond Race winner, Renaud Lavillenie.