China aim to top athletics medal table at Asian Games

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Despite formidable competition from Japan, Bahrain, and India, China remains poised to top the medal table in athletics at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Since 1986, China has consistently led the medal tally in track and field at every Asian Games. Five years ago in Jakarta, China tied with Bahrain, each securing 12 gold medals. India trailed with seven, followed by Japan with six.

The athletics events in Hangzhou, which boast 48 gold medals, are scheduled from September 29 to October 5 at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium. Officials from the Chinese Athletics Association project China to clinch between 13 and 15 golds.

Gong Lijiao of China in action in the women's shot put final at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Aug. 1, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Ming)

in action during the women's shot put final. (Xinhua/Wang Lili)

China's 62-member squad is particularly strong in women's events. Tokyo Olympics champion Gong Lijiao, fresh from her eighth world championships medal in Budapest, is favored to secure her third consecutive Asian Games gold in the women's shot put on the athletics' opening day. She will be accompanied by Song Jiayuan, another medal hopeful and a finalist in Budapest. Given their performances this year, the duo is anticipated to dominate the event.

Feng Bin, the women's discus throw bronze medalist from the Budapest world championships and this year's Diamond League Meeting victor in Xiamen, is another strong contender. After securing second place five years ago, Feng has improved her personal best to 69.12m, a distance that won her a world championship title in Oregon in 2022. Despite not defending her title in Budapest, Feng's consistent performance positions her well ahead of her Asian competitors.

In other events, two-time Asian champion Wang Zheng aims for her inaugural Asian Games gold in the hammer throw. In the women's javelin throw, Lyu Huihui and Olympic champion Liu Shiying will compete for gold, especially with world champion Haruka Kitaguchi of Japan absent from the games.

Chinese race walking, traditionally a dominant event, faced challenges in Budapest, failing to secure any medals. However, at the Asian Games, Chinese race walkers remain favorites. With veteran Liu Hong not participating in Hangzhou, the spotlight falls on Yang Jiayu, the 2017 world champion, and her teammate Ma Zhenxia. Both are expected to excel in the women's 20km, with Yang holding the world record at 1:23:49.

On the track, in the absence of legend Su Bingtian this season, Chinese sprinters, led by Xie Zhenye, the men's 200m national record holder, will face stiff competition from Japan, Thailand, Qatar, and Bahrain. Although Japan's 100m worlds finalist Abdul Hakim Sani Brown won't be competing in Hangzhou, Japan boasts formidable sprinters in Yoshihide Kiryu and Yukion Koike.

Other global athletics stars will also compete in Hangzhou. World champions Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Neeraj Chopra of India are predicted to dominate in the men's high jump and javelin throw, respectively. Philippine pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, who has rivaled Armand Duplantis throughout the season, is expected to stand unchallenged in Hangzhou, being the first Asian to clear 6.00m.

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