Chinese relay team upbeat on Rio

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Buoyed by the success of the Chinese men in the 4x100m relay at the Diamond League in Shanghai on Saturday, sprinter Su Bingtian said the national track team had more to offer at the Rio Olympic Games.

The 4x100m relay is a newly added discipline to the IAAF Diamond League. China picked up a silver medal at last year's World Championships in Beijing in the presence of strong rivals like Jamaica and the US. The Shanghai organizers promptly made the 4x100m discipline the highlight of the one-day event.

But it wasn't a smooth start. About an hour and a half before the penultimate race of the day, Mo Youxue, who was to run the first leg, picked up an injury in the 100m race. He was replaced by teammate Chen Shiwei.

"Mo's injury led to a bit of a scramble as we were used to work with him," third runner Su Bingtian said. "I watched the video later and noticed some small problems and delays in baton exchanges. However, we still managed a 38.71-second finish. It's not easy, but I think China can be hopeful (of a good result) in the Olympics."

Su and the fourth runner Zhang Peimeng opted out of their individual 100m race to take part in the relay. Su said he had not fully recovered from a left foot injury, while Zhang also felt some discomfort in his waist.

"The 100m is demanding, and the track at Shanghai Stadium is a bit hard. I was afraid of further injuries, therefore we decided to take part only in the relay," Su said.

Chinese men's relay head coach Yuan Guoqiang said the sprinters may not be as competitive as their foreign counterparts in the individual events, but as a team they stood a better chance.

Yuan said the sprinters practiced the baton exchange skills a lot since 2014. After Mo picked up the injury, his replacement Chen managed to maintain the stability of the team. Despite the absence of powerhouses Jamaica and US, the victory in Shanghai boosted the sprinters' confidence ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.

The team has a target for Rio — a spot in the 4x100m relay final. "As long as we give a good performance, better results can be achieved. As for an Olympic medal, we don't want to think too much about it, but just do our best," Su said.

After the retirement of former world and Olympic men's 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang, the 4x100m relay has become a big draw among the Chinese track and field fans.

Nearly 40,000 spectators showed up at the Shanghai Stadium on Saturday, creating a good "home" atmosphere for the Chinese athletes.

American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won the 100m in Shanghai, also praised the Chinese relay team.

"They handled the pressure well and won the gold medal. I believe they are aiming for good results at the Rio Games."

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