Chinese Join Michael

BEIJING, Jan 31 - Four Chinese runners leave Monday to spend five months training in the United States with the legendary Michael Johnson as they work to challenge the world’s best at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The four promising youngsters picked to go are 100m specialist Zhou Jiamin, 200m sprinter Yang Yaozu and 400m runners Hu Chengjiang and Jiang Bo, the China Daily said.

Two coaches and a team leader will accompany them to the Ultimate Performance Training Camp at the University of Baylor – the first time China has sent its athletes to train with a foreign coach.

``Since the US is the sprinting powerhouse, we will learn lots of useful training concepts and methods,’’ said Chinese Athletics Administrative Centre vice director Feng Shuyong.

Five-time Olympic gold medal winner Johnson spent time in China last year assessing China’s athletes and giving talks and trackside guidance to the Athens-bound Olympics team.

He admitted it will be a long process'' to bring China's sprinters to a competitive level but I hope that my experience will give something new to Chinese athletes. I hope I can make a contribution.’’

Feng said China is focusing on the sprint and relay races ``as the key breakthrough events’’ and that 110m hurdler Liu Xiang’s gold in Athens had blown a wind of change through Chinese athletics.

``What we have to do is communicate and learn from their progressive training methods to improve our existing formulas, which have many problems,’’ he said.

``After Liu claimed the first sprint gold medal for China … scientific training methods have attracted a lot of attention.’’

He added that China was also in touch with African athletics associations with a view to sending its distance runners to Kenya for training this year.