The Chinese are getting faster

China has won three medals so far at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow – two of those have been in the 20 km walk (so arguably can be ignored entirely) and the third was a bronze in the ever glamorous women’s shot put. But lost in the headlines of Usain Bolt’s 100m victory as an actual lightning bolt flashed in the sky and Yelena Isinayeva’s “No, we really do hate gays” PR implosion was the performance of China’s Zhang Peimeng.

Three Olympic champions and Zhang Peimeng

Zhang missed out on becoming the first Asian to reach the 100m final at the World Championships by a few thousandths of a second, but set his second personal best time of the week, running 10.00 seconds flat. The only “Asian” to have run faster than that is the Nigerian-born Samuel Francis, who became a naturalized Qatari citizen in April 2007 and ran 9.99 a few months later. Zhang may not be threatening for a major medal anytime soon, but it’s significant achievement nonetheless.

Elsewhere, hopes are high for 19-year-old Xie Zhenye in the 200m, who holds the Chinese indoor and outdoor records at that distance. He won gold at both the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the 2012 Asian Junior Championships, but this will be a huge step up in class. Heats and semis are on Friday, with the final on Saturday.

In the 110m hurdles, Xie Wenjun did not make it out of the heats, despite some promising performances earlier in the season, but Li Jinzhe will line up on Friday in the final of the long jump – another event where speed is crucial. Li, 23, beat all of the last three Olympic long jump champions at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix event in May.

China’s women’s team is entering a squad for the 4 x 100m relay but does not have a single individual entry in either the 100m or 200m. Overall, China is still a long way off from turning out some worthy successors to Liu Xiang, but given the improvements China has shown in other sports, expect to see China winning rather more medals when the World Championships come to Beijing in 2015.

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