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Birthday boy Wang walks into history
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Birthday boy Wang walks into history

Wang Hao became China's third male athlete to win a medal at the World Championships when he claimed silver in the 20km walk Saturday.

Former men's high jump world record holder Zhu Jianhua was the first at the 1983 World Championships when he won a bronze. Star hurdler Liu Xiang was the second. He won bronze in 2003, silver in 2005 and gold in 2007.

"I didn't expect this result," said Wang, who finished fourth at last year's Beijing Olympic Games. "But I trained well, the weather conditions were very good. And I am very happy with the result."

Chinese walkers continued to delight the fans yesterday as Asian champion Liu Hong won a bronze medal in the women's 20km walk. China's Liu Hongyu and Wang Han completed a one-two finish at the 1999 Worlds.

For Wang Hao, it was also a case of double joy. "Tomorrow is my birthday. This silver is a great birthday gift for myself. I feel so lucky," said Wang, who turned 20 yesterday.

It was actually a two-man battle between Wang and Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin for most of the race. But after 17 kms, the Russian pulled away and won the championships' first gold in 1:18:41.

Wang finished second with a personal best time of 1:19:06. Wang has been in good shape this year, winning the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Maior, Portugal, with a then personal best of 1:19:27.

Coached by an Italian for a short period earlier this year, Wang said his technique has improved a lot and he received only one technical warning during the race.

"The Beijing Olympics was my first major race, I felt very nervous at that time. But this year I am very confident.

"My goal was to finish top three and a silver is really a bonus," he said.

The combined victory of Chinese men's and women's walkers excited Liu Hong, who finished fourth at the Beijing Games. "I believe Berlin is a brand new start for China's walking," she said.

Chinese male walkers had often been tipped to medal at the Worlds, only to disappoint. Their women's counterparts used to be very good, winning Olympic golds at Barcelona 1992 and and Sydney 2000 Games.

Wang's result was a pleasant surprise for Feng Shuyong, head coach of the Chinese team. Feng said China's goal at the Worlds was a medal of any color and that it would most likely come in the women's discus.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2009)

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