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Flowers, media greet world champion
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China athletes on the right track

China's Bai Xue is surrounded by reporters after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport yesterday. The 20-year-old won the women's marathon world title in a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 15 seconds in Berlin. [China Daily]

Bai Xue, the newly-crowned women's marathon world champion, received a hero's welcome when she arrived back in Beijing yesterday.

Returning from her triumphant performance at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, the 20-year-old Bai was greeted with flowers and by a throng of media at the Beijing Capital International Airport.

"I'm very tired after sitting on the flight for eight hours and I'm not used to meeting so many people," a surprised Bai said, holding her gold medal and marathon team World Cup, which was earned with teammates Zhou Chunxiu, Zhu Xiaolin and Sun Weiwei, who finished fourth, fifth and 13th respectively at the Worlds.

"I've never seen such a situation before. I didn't expect there to be so many people to meet me here," she said.

Clocking two hours, 25 minutes and 15 seconds on Sunday, Bai became China's first women's marathon world champion.

"I performed well at the competition but there are still some details to be improved upon for the future," Bai said. "The thing that satisfied me the most is that we won the team World Cup again after 13 years."

At the age of 13, Bai started off her career running 5,000m and 10,000m races, but she turned to the marathon in 2003 and made quick progress. At last October's Beijing International Marathon, Bai won gold.

"She is very smart," said Feng Shuyong, the head coach of China's athletics team.

"She mainly ran 5,000m or 10,000m in the past but on Sunday she performed like a veteran marathon runner."

(China Daily August 26, 2009)

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