Staged to perfection

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Liu Xiang of Guangdong celebrates winning the women's 50m freestyle final in 23.97 seconds, refreshing her own Asian record and defeating double Olympic gold medalist Zhang Yufei of Jiangsu en route to gold. XINHUA

World-class performances and super-smooth organization left athletes, fans and organizers basking in the glow of a highly successful 14th National Games, which ended on Monday in Shaanxi province.

According to a media conference ahead of the closing ceremony, all the 410 medal events, including 52 staged in co-host provinces, had all ended by Sunday. The highly competitive action on show impressed pundits and fans alike, and in some disciplines, winning a national title proved to be even harder than earning Olympic gold.

"The competitions of China's National Games were really exciting with countless highlights. More athletes from more delegations reached the podium to win medals compared with previous editions, which bodes well for the development of Chinese sports," Gao Zhidan, a deputy director of the General Administration of Sport of China (GASC), told a news conference in Xi'an on Sunday.

"With the help of scientific training and sports technology, athletes produced great results with many new records at the Games. By Saturday, nine athletes and teams in shooting and weightlifting had surpassed 12 world records.

"One athletics team surpassed an Asian record. Thirteen athletes and seven teams in cycling, weightlifting, athletics, sports climbing and swimming set 22 national records. And in weightlifting, seven athletes set 10 national youth records."

According to the GASC, 56 events improved on the results from the last edition of the Games in 2017, and the results in 17 disciplines were better than Chinese athletes' corresponding results at the Tokyo Olympics.

"Many events at the National Games were very competitive, and even matched the level of the Olympics," Liu Guoyong, director of competitive sports at the GASC, told China Daily on Sunday.

"In the women's 10m platform diving, for example, there were four Olympic champions competing for the national title in Xi'an. Before the final round of that event, the gap between the leader and the second-placed athlete was just 0.6 points. In the table tennis competition, Chen Meng, who won women's singles gold in Tokyo, didn't even make the final in Xi'an.

"We are also pleased to see the emergence of a new generation of athletes who have showed potential to challenge the Olympic champions and refresh world records. Among the 24 shooting champions, 11 were born after 2000. The two youngest champions were born in 2004."

The 12,000-plus athletes who competed at the Games were certainly not lacking for high-quality facilities and services in Shaanxi.

"In terms of the transportation, we had a total of 2,881 shuttle buses and other designated vehicles which provided over half a million trips to all participants to guarantee the smooth operation of the Games," said Fang Guanghua, deputy governor of Shaanxi province.

"Also, we had over 1,300 medical workers from 95 designated hospitals to work at venues, training bases, hotels, media and athlete villages. As for security, we had about 28,000 police officers on duty each day.

"Pandemic prevention was also a priority. We created a bio-secure bubble for athletes, referees, technical officials and media workers at the National Games. We also created an online platform to monitor participants' health, and conducted regular COVID-19 tests."

Olympic aces

Fresh from their inspirational exploits at Tokyo 2020, China's Olympians stole the show at the National Games, with sprinter Su Bingtian shining brightest.

The 32-year-old pocketed gold medals in the 100m and 4x100m relay, along with a silver in the 4x200m relay in Xi'an. On arguably the most memorable night of the Games, over 17,000 spectators roared Su on to 100m glory at Xi'an Olympic Sports Center as he clocked 9.95 seconds to once again smash through the 10-second barrier.

"This year's National Games are very likely to be the last Games of my career. So ending with golds is really special for me," said Su after winning the 4x100m relay.

Su cemented his legacy at Tokyo 2020 when he became the first Chinese to reach an Olympic 100m final, refreshing the Asian record to 9.83 in the process in his semifinal.

"Our country's sprinters are gaining fans, but we still trail the world's top sprinters. The progress we have made shows we are going in the right direction," said Su.

"I hope the younger generation of sprinters can seize their chances in more quality events and grow through this process, prepare for the Olympics and gain experience.

"Four years for me is too long. If I was a few years younger I would consider participating in the next National Games. But at my age, it's tough for a sprinter to keep going. As the next National Games will be jointly hosted by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, as a Guangdong native, I invite all of you to come to feel the warmness of the Greater Bay Area."

Wang Shun made the biggest splash in the National Games swimming pool, bagging a whopping six gold medals.

"It was a very long race schedule and there were so many disciplines to compete in. It was a new challenge for me. My body is exhausted, and I felt I could barely finish the races. But I think I'm improving," said Wang, who represented Zhejiang province.

"I want to tell the old me from 10 years ago that thankfully I kept training until now and my efforts have paid off. And I want to tell the future me, 10 years from now, to just keep pushing for the next decade."

The 27-year-old Wang is currently the oldest member of the Chinese swimming team, but he only rose to prominence this summer after winning gold in the 200m individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics.

Wang's Tokyo gold was China's first Olympic men's IM title. The victory also saw him become only the second Chinese male swimmer to win Olympic gold.

He made his Olympic debut in 2012 when he failed to reach the podium. Four years later he won 200m IM bronze at the Rio Games, with his victory in Tokyo coming as a major surprise.

"After the National Games, I need to keep focusing on my training. I also need to relax and rest for a while. There's more pressure on me, but I simply need to get used to this. I will keep fighting along with my teammates and coaches," said Wang.

"I really enjoyed the National Games, and will keep moving forward to my next goal-the Paris Olympics."

This year's National Games played host to 50 gold medalists from the Tokyo Olympics, including China's much-vaunted new breed of athletes who continued to show their star quality, including 14-year-old diver Quan Hongchan and 21-year-old shooter Yang Qian.

"The National Games is the biggest multisport event in our country, and each delegation considers it an important platform to test their sports development," said GASC official Liu.

"The athletes overcame the challenges of the pandemic and medical quarantine following their return from Tokyo to deliver great performances at the Games."

Over 12,000 athletes including those from Hong Kong and Macao participated in the National Games

50 athletes who won gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics also competed at the National Games

56 disciplines produced better results than those of the previous National Games. Seventeen disciplines had higher scores than corresponding events at Tokyo 2020

410 medal events were staged at the Games in Shaanxi and seven other co-host provinces

12 world records were surpassed at the National Games but have yet to be officially ratified internationally

1,350 medical workers were on duty at the Games, with particular focus on COVID-19 detection and prevention

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