Fleet-footed Chinese athlete takes life in stride

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Su Bingtian reacts after qualifying for the men's 100m final at the Tokyo Olympic Games on August 1, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Veteran sprinter Su Bingtian said he didn't regret missing out on a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

"My goal was to run well and strive for the best position that day," he said in an interview with national broadcaster CCTV recently.

"After the final, some people said that I very much regretted failing to get a medal. I think that is because people have expected too much of me," said Su, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday this month. "I'm really happy. I'm so happy that I want to cry."

Su set an Asian record of 9.83 seconds in the 100-meter semifinals at Tokyo. He failed to get a medal in the final, at 9.98 seconds, only 0.18 seconds behind the champion. He finished sixth, underlining how competitive the event had become.

But Su was the first Chinese to compete in an Olympic 100-meter final.

"Previously, I didn't think I could achieve such an amazing time. I only expected to run faster than 9.9 seconds," he said. His previous best was 9.91 seconds.

Because of his stunning performance, Su, dubbed the "Asian flying man", was chosen as the flag-bearer for the Chinese delegation at the closing ceremony at the Games ended on Aug 8.

In Su's view, his achievements in Tokyo may not be the peak of his career.

"After I've run 9.83 seconds, I think there's still room to improve," he told CCTV.

While some people said that his record-setting sprint was the limit for Asians, Su said he believes there is no limit at all. He said he believed Chinese can run faster than 9.80 seconds in the coming years.

"I hope my performance can inspire younger athletes to keep pushing forward with their sporting careers," he said.

As to whether he will participate in the Paris Olympic Games, Su said that he wasn't sure, as conditions in three years are too hard to predict.

"If I can run for a year, then I will stick to it for a year," he said. "If I can still run in 2024, I will surely accept the challenge. But if I really can't run, I will choose to retire."

Su said he enjoys running the track at the moment.

Su's teammate Xie Zhenye said that, in fact, everyone has different identities at different stages, but of course he hopes that Su can continue to run for China in the years to come. It all depends on his personal wishes.

"I respect any of his choices. But personally, I am still expecting that we can work and run together in Paris three years from now," Xie said.

Su said he will take a vacation after the National Games, which will be held in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in September. And then he will return to Jinan University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, to teach his students. He is an associate professor at Jinan University.

Peng Guoxiong, dean of the School of Physical Education at the university, said Su has now become the "fastest running university professor" in the country.

Su was officially employed as an associate professor of physical education in April 2018, after he had completed four years of undergraduate studies and three years of postgraduate work. He completed his master's degree in international economics and trade in 2017.

"Su is particularly welcomed by students at the university, as he has a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge, while at the same time engaging in demanding track and field training and getting experience in advanced training and theory under Chinese and foreign coaches," Peng said.

Su is certainly qualified to guide his students in research, he said.

As an athlete, Su said he felt sorry for his family. He could not accompany his wife when she was pregnant because of training and competition demands all year. He was competing in a foreign country when his wife gave birth to a son in 2018.

Su says he can do some housework and help look after his son when returns home. He likes the chicken soup and the fish his wife cooks.

"The cakes and desserts my wife makes are also favorites," he said.

The couple's story is one of young love. Su's wife, Lin Yanfang, was one of his primary school classmates and grew up with him in the city of Zhongshan, hometown of Sun Yat-sen.

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