China hopes to make a breakthrough in athletics at Tokyo 2020.
TOKYO, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Athletics has long been the main draw of each Olympic Games and the pandemic-delayed Tokyo 2020 is no exception, with the likes of stars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix looking to create more records.
China will be represented by 59 athletes in 24 events at the Tokoy Games. Yang Jiayu, Liu Hong (both women's 20km race walk) and Gong Lijiao (women's shot put) are China's top medal hopefuls at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
The 32-year-old Gong, who won bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012, is eager to complete her career with a gold medal that has eluded her for over a decade. Gong displayed good form in June when she threw world-leading marks of 20.31 and 20.39 meters consecutively at China's national championships.
"Earlier I said my goal was to throw over 20 meters, now I have made it. I am expecting to be better in Tokyo. The gold medal is within my reach," said the two-time world champion.
If Gong's dream comes true in Tokyo, it would be China's first ever Olympic gold in field events.
Another event to watch is the women's 20km race walk, where Yang Jiayu and defending champion Liu Hong will compete.
Yang completed the fastest ever women's 20km race walk earlier this year, clocking one hour, 23 minutes and 49 seconds at the Chinese Race Walking Championships in Huangshan in March. That took 49 seconds off the previous world record of 1:24:38 set by Liu Hong.
"I hope I can maintain such good form. My expectation for the Olympics is at least a podium finish and the gold medal is the ultimate goal," said Yang. "I believe the Olympic gold medal will belong to China."
Another Chinese race walker in this event is Qieyang Shijie, who finished second at the 2019 Doha World Championships. As was the case in Doha, there is every chance that China could sweep the medals in this event.
In the men's 20km race walk, Asian champion Wang Kaihua broke the national record earlier this year. In Sapporo, he will look to contend for medals along with Rio silver medalist Cai Zelin.
In the women's javelin, Lyu Huihui and Liu Shiying are hopeful of mounting the podium in Tokyo. Lyu ranks third in this year's world rankings at 66.55m, while world silver medalist Liu set a competitive personal best of 67.29m last year.
On the track, Chinese sprinter Su Bingtian is making his third Olympic appearance. The Asian record holder clocked 9.98 seconds in the men's 100m at the Olympic trails, and is confident of another sub-10 second race in Tokyo. "After gaining experience as I grew, I now have better control over and take better care of my body," said Su.
The 31-year-old's other mission in Tokyo is leading China's men's 4x100m relay squad, which finished fourth at Rio 2016. With men's 200m Asian record holder Xie Zhenye and young talents like Wu Zhiqiang and Yan Haibin, the team is aiming for the podium this time.
China's athletics squad bagged two golds, two silvers and two bronze medals at Rio, representing their best ever showing at an Olympic Games.
Though the pandemic forced the cancelation of many international events, many world records have still been broken in the last couple of years. Ryan Crouser of the United States broke the long-standing world record in the men's shot put with 23.37m, Norway's Karsten Warholm smashed Kevin Young's world record, clocking 46.70s in the men's 400m hurdles.
The women's 400m hurdles world record was lowered by Sydney McLaughlin of the United States in 51.90s, and Sweden's Mondo Duplantis broke the men's pole vault world record with a leap of 6.18m.
With all eyes on the men's 100m, American sprinter Trayvon Bromell is regarded as favorite to succeed the now-retired Usain Bolt, blasting to a gun-to-tape victory in the U.S. trials in 9.80 seconds, while Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is a strong candidate in the women's 100m.
Other stars to watch include Eliud Kipchoge in the men's marathon, Johannes Vetter in the men's javelin, and Sifan Hassan in the women's 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m.