Team China aiming high at worlds

Shot put and javelin stars lead medal charge, with sprinters also targeting more breakthroughs,Spearheaded by shot put powerhouse Gong Lijiao, Team China heads to the World Athletics Championships aiming for more breakthroughs from its established stars and a host of young guns.,On Wednesday, the Chinese Athletics Association confirmed that a 53-strong squad with an average age of 26-two years younger than the Tokyo Games team-will compete across 23 disciplines at the worlds, which begin on Friday in Eugene, Oregon. The championships were postponed last year due to the pandemic.,At the 2019 worlds in Doha, Team China pocketed nine medals-three each of gold, silver and bronze.,Reigning Olympic champion and two-time defending world champion Gong again leads the charge. The vastly experienced 33-year-old is competing in her eighth straight worlds in Eugene where she will bid to add to her career haul of six medals from the championships.,A huge throw of 20.46 meters in a June test event in Beijing bodes well for Gong’s title defense. Her personal best is 20.58m, with the world record standing at 22.43m since 1987.,Ominously for her rivals, Gong reckons she has yet to hit her peak.,”I think I have yet to reach 100 percent of my strength, but the test event result was pretty satisfying and has given me confidence for the worlds,” Gong said before leaving for the US.,Gong took a well-deserved extended vacation following the Tokyo Olympics and the National Games. Now she is raring to go again after being motivated by the performances of her international rivals, among whom American Chase Ealey has led the way this year with a PB toss of 20.51m.,”It took a long time for me to return to top condition, but I feel I’m just as competitive as I was last year,” Gong said.,”For the past few months, I have trained really hard and put in huge effort. It was rewarding then to go over 20 meters at the test event.,”I’ve been to Eugene twice, and I broke 20m both times there. I have great impressions of the city. This time I will compete in a new venue, and I hope I can have a great result,” Gong said of the Hayward Field stadium, which was renovated in 2018. “But this year there will be fierce competition. I also want to continue to challenge myself. I will try my best.”,After finally grabbing Olympic gold in Tokyo, Gong has achieved all her dreams in the sport. However, that has not dulled her competitive instincts, and even at 33, is confident she still has what it takes to maintain her dominance.,”Since the Tokyo Olympics, I feel that I don’t have too much pressure anymore. I remember the first time I participated in the worlds, I was so unsure about many things,” she said.,”Now I have competed at major international meets on many occasions. The biggest change is my mentality. Now I just relax and enjoy my training, and that’s how I can still produce great results.”,China’s Song Jiayuan harbors hopes of joining Gong on the podium after throwing a PB of 20.38m in Shanghai last month. Song, 24, placed fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, but finished well down the field at the 2019 worlds. Zhang Linru, 22, could complete a trio of Chinese in the shot put final.,In women’s javelin, reigning Olympic champion Liu Shiying is aiming to go one better than the silver she won at the 2019 worlds.,”I was thrilled to win the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. But I always feel I have yet to realize all my dreams and I can still make breakthroughs,” said Liu, 28.,”There’s no guarantee I can win gold here because the competition is really fierce. The final result will depend on my own performance on the field. The biggest rival is myself.,”After the Tokyo Olympics, I gave my gold medal to my mom to keep. I was afraid that I might become overconfident. So, I will see the gold medal again after I retire.”,Sprint icon,Fans will also be keeping close tabs on Chinese sprint icon Su Bingtian. Su dashed into the history books last summer in Tokyo by becoming the first Chinese to reach an Olympic 100m final, refreshing the Asian record to 9.83 sec in the process in his semifinal.,It’s a big ask, but the 32-year-old will be aiming to add to his legacy by lowering that mark again in Eugene.,Su will also go in the 4x100m relay along with 200m Asian-record holder Xie Zhenye, Tang Xingqiang and Wu Zhiqiang.,The Chinese quartet finished fourth at Tokyo 2020, clocking a national record of 37.79 seconds in the final. In February, the Chinese squad was promoted to the bronze-medal position after the disqualification of the second-placed British team over a doping violation.,Youngsters Chen Guanfeng and Deng Zhijian have also qualified for the 4x100m relay, and will be hoping to show their speed should they get the chance.,China will also chase a medal in the women’s 20-kilometer race walk. Defending champion and 2016 Olympic winner Liu Hong, 35, and 2012 Olympic champion Qieyang Shijie, 31, are expected to spearhead the Chinese challenge. They are joined by youngsters Ma Zhenxia and Wu Quanming.