A glance at the Chinese contingent,a large number of whom are in their early 20s,at the Asian Athletics Championships,indicates that they have not lost hope in gaining a foothold in athletics,a sport their Soviet-styled sports academy products have not been able to crack yet.
Since returning to the International Olympics Committee fold in 1979,China has won an overall 201 gold medal of which 164 have come in racquet sports (table tennis and badminton),swimming and diving,gymnastics,shooting and weightlifting.
China has focussed on sports in which there are multiple events and that in-turn increased their chances of winning gold 33 in diving,28 in gymnastics and 21 in shooting. They have also maintained dominance in their traditional strengths badminton (16 gold) and table tennis (24).
However,the Chinese have been unable to replicate their gold haul in athletics,which has over 42 events at the Olympics. Overall,they have won just six gold. Though China is making progress in track and field,three of their six Olympic gold have come in the walk event,including that of Chen Ding’s 20 kilometre men’s walk at London.
Track and field is perhaps the most difficult discipline to achieve collective team success in consistently,because events require not only a completely different set of techniques but also varied physical attributes strength,height,flexibility,speed and endurance.
At Pune,a few of China’s torchbearers for the next generation have been identified. Gold medals in the men’s long jump and the pole vault,the men’s and women’s sprint events,the men’s hurdles,the women’s discuss and the women’s 400 metres have been won by Under-22 athletes.
Those tipped to be future women stars won the hammer throw,pole vault and javelin. But success of these budding athletes will count only if they carry it forward to the World Championships and the Olympics in 2016.
Nihal is senior assistant editor based in New Delhi