Sports / Track and field

Liu walks away with first gold for China

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-29 07:17

Chinese race walker Liu Hong lived up to the huge expectations and won the first gold medal for China at the Beijing world athletics championships on Friday, and she has already set her sights on winning the 2016 Olympics as well.

The pressure of bagging gold for the host in Beijing proved too heavy to handle, as team China has seen its quest of winning in such events as men's race walking, long jump and women's shot put come crashing down amid the thunderous yet intimidating cheers from the home crowd at the Bird's Nest.

As the daunting mission at the IAAF World Championships descended upon the women's 20-kilometer race walking event on Friday morning, Liu carried this hefty burden on her shoulders. But she came through and took home the long-awaited first gold medal after clocking 1 hour, 27 minutes and 45 seconds to finish first with a slight edge over teammate Lu Xiuzhi, who won the silver.

 Liu walks away with first gold for China

Liu Hong (left) wins ahead of Lu Xiuzhi in the final of the women's 20-kilometer race walking event at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing on Friday. Wei Xiaohao / China Daily

Lyudmyla Olyanovska of Ukraine finished third, 28 seconds behind the Chinese duo.

Despite the early morning start, a huge local crowd packed the Bird's Nest to welcome their walkers.

"I felt really pressured before the race, since our men's team missed out on the gold on opening day, which raised the expectations higher for us," said the 28-year-old, who won silver and bronze medals in the previous two world championships, in 2011 and 2013.

"Today I made up for the regrets (at previous championships) to change the color of the medal into gold while rewarding the trust of my foreign coach, who keeps motivating me by saying that I am the best in the world," said an excited Liu, who wept during an interview. "I feel like all the hard work has paid off."

The foreign mentor to whom Liu referred is renowned Italian race walking coach Sandro Damilano, who has been involved in the sport for 40 years and was hired by the Chinese Athletics Association in 2009.

Under the guidance of Damilano, Liu set a world record for the 20-km race of 1:24:38 at an international meet in Spain in June.

"I am happy for her. After consecutive podium finishes, now she claimed the gold. It's important for her career," said the 65-year-old Damilano.

Seeing the victory at the championships as a confidence boost, both Liu and Damilano have set higher goals for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"Today was a steppingstone for Rio. With the world record and the world champion under my name, I am more determined than ever to win the Olympics," said Liu.

Liu walks away with first gold for China

Thanks to Liu's gold medal, the Bird's Nest, which was the host stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saw the Chinese anthem played for the first time, because China failed to win gold in track and field in that venue seven years ago.

"We reaped a gold medal and we witnessed breakthroughs (in sprinting and the long jump) at the championships, which showed the progress China has made in the Western-dominated track and field events," said Du Zhaocai, director of the Chinese Athletics Association.

(China Daily 08/29/2015 page1)

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