China Looks Abroad

BEIJING, Oct 24 - China plans to send more athletes overseas to gain big event experience so they can make a mark on home turf at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, according to one of the country’s top athletics officials.
Feng Shuoyong, vice director of China’s Athletics Administrative Centre, says they need to be toughened mentally to handle the pressure that comes with such major competitions.
China's track and field needs more athletes like Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang who can perform at their best under pressure of big events,'' he told China Daily. There are two years and 10 months before the 2008 Olympic Games.
During this time we will send more athletes to compete in major international events to enrich their experience and strengthen their psychology, two vital factors preparing for competition.'' China acknowledges there is a huge gap between the country's top level athletes and the world's best, and with the Olympic countdown well under way it wants at least to be on a more competitive footing. Currently only a handful of athletes, including Liu and female distance runner Xing Huina, are considered serious medal material on the track. Sun Yingjie is also a prospect although she is now embroiled in a drugs scandal after testing positive for androsterone, a steroid similar to the male hormone testosterone, at the just-completed China National Games. The number of athletes we send abroad next year will be twice as many as this year,’’ said Feng. We are also working at sending middle distance runners and throwers abroad to train.'' One place they will be sent is the Ultimate Performance Training Camp of five-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson in the United States. Johnson became the first foreign track coach hired by China last year, and up-and-coming athletes such as 100m specialist Zhou Jiamin, 200m sprinter Yang Yaozu and 400m runner Hu Chengjiang have benefited from his knowledge this year. Yang returned from the camp to score a silver medal at the National Games in Nanjing. Although the Beijing Olympics is the ultimate goal, the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar next year is also high on China's agenda. Feng said it was vital that the nation's athletes continue the momentum from the National Games and return to training regimes as soon as possible. All the athletes should be back in training soon after a short rest to ensure they are fit for next year’s Asian Games,’’ he said.
``The Asian Games in Doha will be a big task for us and we should make full use of winter training to improve.’’