While Jamaican Usain Bolt stunned the world with his sensational 100m run at the Berlin World Championships, Chinese athletes have also surprised with a good start to the competition.
After race walker Wang Hao claimed a silver in the men's 20km on the opening day, his female's counterpart, Liu Hong, added a bronze on Sunday in her 20km walk and women's shot putter Gong Lijiao also finished third with a personal best of 19.89m.
The three medals mark China's best start since they first took part in the event in 1983.
Boosted by the unexpected results of the first two days, officials are now changing their forecasts for the remainder of the Championships.
"The three medals were a little bit out of our expectations but they were not that surprising," said Feng Shuyong, vice-director of the Chinese Athletics Administrative Center. "The results of race walking are difficult to predict but we are happy our athletes performed up to their potential."
Feng said before the event that China would struggle to medal at the Worlds due mainly to the absence of injured star hurdler Liu Xiang.
With a silver and two bronze, the Chinese athletes have forced a major rethink.
"Although the General State Administration of Sport gave us no specific medal assignment, we still couldn't come back with empty hands. But we didn't put much pressure on the athletes and let them compete in a relaxed way," Feng said. "Those medalists showed their fighting spirit and beat many world-class athletes."
The surprise silver from Wang boosted the confidence of the China camp on the first day. In the women's event a day later, Liu clocked 1:29:10, a season's best of her, to win bronze.
It was the first walk medal for Chinese women since Liu Hongyu and Wang Yan finished 1-2 at the Seville World Championships in 1999.
"I went to Wang Hao's room yesterday afternoon and shook his hands," said 22-year-old Liu, who finished fourth at last year's Beijing Olympic Games. "I hoped his hands could give me some luck."
China's young triple jumpers are also showing medal-winning potential.
In the qualification rounds, Xie Limei soared 14.62 to lead all qualifiers into the women's final which were to take place early this morning, while Li Yanxi leapt 17.27m to be ranked third heading into the men's final.
"Chinese athletes still have hopes in some more events such as the women's discus, the women's marathon, the men's 50km walk and both triple jumps," an upbeat Feng said.
(China Daily August 18, 2009)