BEIJING – The Chinese fans at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships have shown up in great numbers at the Bird’s Nest over the first eight sessions. Official attendance figures are hard to get, but it has appeared that the evening sessions have been over 50,000. The morning qualifying sessions have also attracted good crowds – on Wednesday over 18,000 were already in the stadium before the first event at 9:30 a.m.
It is not a surprise that the crowds have been particularly vocal in their support of Chinese athletes. On Tuesday evening, the finals of the men’s long jump took center stage. With three Chinese jumpers in the field of 12, the fans were into it from the first jump of the competition.
No Chinese or Asian athlete had ever medaled in the men’s long jump at the World Championships and the crowd was eager to see history made. The top Chinese jumper, Jinzhe Li, had already stated his belief that he could win gold. With his personal best a sterling 27 feet, 9 ½ inches (8.47m), Li’s comment was no idle boast, but a hopeful yet realistic assessment. Promising young jumpers Jianan Wang and Xinglong Gao joined Li to form a strong local trio.
Li did not get off to a good start, leaping just 25-2 (7.67m) on his first attempt. He later said he had no idea what happened on that attempt, but it appeared to throw him off. Li had three fouls in his six attempts, and only jumped a best of 26-7 (8.10m) to finish in fifth place. Fighting back tears after the event, Li had trouble talking about his performance.
The two young jumpers took advantage. Jianan Wang brought home the coveted first long jump World Championship medal for China – a bronze – and his teammate Xinglong Gao was right behind in fourth. Neither jumper was completely happy, feeling they could have gone farther, but it was still a historic competition for China.
Both Li and Wang said they are looking forward to being at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland next March. All three of the Chinese jumpers are fun to watch, as well as supremely talented. Don’t miss them at Portland 2016!