Curtain falls for Olympic race walking champion Chen after National Games

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London Olympic race walking gold medalist Chen Ding has decided to retire after finishing fifth in the 14th National Games in Xi'an, China, on Monday.

"After today, I'll go back behind the scenes," the 29-year-old said after the Games.

"I was not selected in the Tokyo Olympic roster, and ranked fifth in the National Games. I don't have any regrets about this. It's been a tough route for me, but everything is worth it," he added.

Chen won the London Olympic gold medal in the men's 20km race walking event on Aug. 5, 2012, his 20th birthday, becoming the second Chinese male athlete to win an Olympic track and field gold after hurdler Liu Xiang.

One year later, he finished runner-up at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, before seeing his result improved to top place as Russia's Aleksandr Ivanov had his gold medal stripped while serving a doping suspension.

In the next several years, Chen experienced a low ebb, being plagued by injuries after the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Placing fifth at the National Games in 2017, he made a quiet decision to retire.

Chen started a family at the end of 2017, and his identity has changed from a player to a referee.

Impressed by what he experienced at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in May 2018, seeing Japanese race walkers win both individual and team titles in 20km and 50km distance in China, Chen showed staunch determination to return.

Although his performance in several competitions was not ideal in 2019, Chen treasured every experience of rising above adversity.

"Race walking is a sport where you gain success from adversity," he said.

Chen faltered again in the national Race Walking Championships and the Olympic trials in March this year.

"I haven't gone out of that for a long time. 1 hour and 21 minutes, which I could easily achieve before, now becomes a barrier for me," Chen said.

Like four years ago, he ranked fifth in this edition of the National Games. "I didn't feel well physically at the beginning. This was my last race, and I didn't want to regret it at the end. So I insisted on working hard," explained Chen.

Chen said he will end his career as an athlete, but will not leave the sport. He hopes to continue to contribute to China's race walking.

"In the future, I will engage myself in sports with a new role and try some new things. But my future will be closely related to race walking," he concluded.

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