Paris 2024 Athletics Preview: US eyes lion's share, Duplantis poised for spotlight-Xinhua

Paris 2024 Athletics Preview: US eyes lion's share, Duplantis poised for spotlight

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-07-10 10:11:30

BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Boosted by a series of world-leading performances, and even a world record, in their highly competitive national Olympic trials, US track and field athletes are ready to maintain their dominance in the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Noah Lyles is one of the biggest stars in the American team. The 26-year-old sprinter collected men's 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medals at the World Championships in Budapest last year, making him the first man to manage the feat since Jamaican legend Usain Bolt's retirement.

And Lyles has never hidden his ambition for another triple collection in Paris. During the US trials last month, he also showed that he gets the right form, as well, by breezing to a 9.83s victory to equal with his 100m personal best time and winng the 200m race in a world-leading time of 19.53s.

World champion Sha'Carri Richardson took the women's 100m title with a world-leading of 10.71s to clinch her Olympic spot. It will be the first Olympic Games for the 24-year-old and she will be aiming for the gold medal not only in the 100m event but also in the 4x100m relay.

Women's 400m hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone will also arrive in Paris with high spirit. The defending Olympic champion clocked 50.65s to win at the US trials, chopping 0.03s off her own world record.

With her 200m PB set two months ago and a 400m world leading time of 48.75 achieved last month, the in-form hurdler might be eyeing more than just the gold medal.

Three years ago, she also set a world record at the national trials ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, and went on to further improve it en routing to grabbing the gold on the Olympic track.

As the Americans are expecting a big medal haul in Paris, the American-born Swedish Armand Duplantis may easily take the spotlight, as long as the pole vault sensation can repeat the competition routine he usually did - securing the victory early and raising the bar to a height that is one centimeter higher than his own world record.

And for now, the height should be 6.25m after he soared to his eighth world record of 6.24m at the season opener in China's Xiamen on April 20.

"A new record will be nice in Paris, but I think the most important thing is to win and take back home the gold. That's the most important thing when it's a competition like the Olympics. But if I could break the record too, then that would be amazing," said Duplantis in a previous interview with Xinhua.

"I hope that I will be in my best possible shape when I get there, which I think is going be the case," he added.

Like Duplantis, China's Olympic shot put champion Gong Lijiao is also looking to reach her best level in Paris.

The 35-year-old will compete in her fifth Olympic Games next month. After collecting a silver, a bronze, and a fourth-place finish in her first three Olympic outings from 2008 to 2016, the Hebei native finally reached the top podium in Tokyo with a career-best mark of 20.58 meters.

Following the Tokyo Games, Gong experienced fluctuations in her form, finishing second and third in the 2022 and 2023 World Championships, respectively. This season, she has yet to return to her best shape, with a season-best mark of 20.00 meters set at the FBK Games in Hengelo, the Netherlands.

"I think if you want to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games, you need to throw at least around 20.50 meters," said Gong, who has been training with her coach Dieter Kollark in Europe since early June. "Step by step, I need to keep improving my mark, and I believe even at my age, I still have the strength to vie for the gold in Paris."

Gong's main rivals in Paris include reigning two-time world champion Chase Jackson of the United States, who has a personal best of 20.76 meters, Canada's world silver medalist Sarah Mitton, who achieved a national record of 20.68 meters two months ago, and Jessica Schilder of the Netherlands, who recently set a national record of 20.33 meters in Hengelo.

The 37-year-old Chinese race walker Liu Hong, 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist in the women's 20km event, will also compete in her fifth Games in Paris. Following the 2019 World Championships in Doha, where Liu led a Chinese podium sweep in the 20km event, China's race walkers have yet to win any titles in either the Olympic Games or World Championships. Liu and her teammates are eager to end this title drought.

Liu, along with teammates Yang Jiayu, the world record holder and 2017 world champion, and 2022 World Race Walking Cup champion Ma Zhenxia, will face a strong field in the women's 20km race walk event. Competitors include Spain's world champion Maria Perez and Kimberly Garcia Leon of Peru. Ma and Yang may have a better chance than Liu to fight for the gold medal.

Liu and Qieyang Shijie, the third Olympic champion in the Chinese squad who recently received her reallocated 20km race walk gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics, will also compete in the newly introduced Olympic event of the marathon race walk mixed relay with male race walkers Zhang Jun and He Xianghong.

Both Liu and Qieyang have demonstrated their strength in long-distance events, with Liu holding the women's 50km race walk world record and Qieyang finishing third in the 35km event at the 2022 World Championships in Oregon, the United States.

Women's discus world champion Feng Bin is another athlete to watch in the Chinese team. The 30-year-old achieved a surprising victory at the Oregon World Championships with a personal best of 69.12 meters and has maintained consistent form this season, achieving over-67m marks in her previous six competitions, winning four of them.

The Chinese 54-strong squad also includes men's long jump world champion Wang Jianan and men's triple jump Olympic runner-up Zhu Yaming. However, both athletes have been struggling to fine-tune their form in recent months.

Notably absent from the squad are Liu Shiying, who won the women's javelin gold at the Tokyo Olympics, and Su Bingtian, who set an Asian record of 9.83 seconds to reach the men's 100m final in Tokyo three years ago and took bronze with the men's 4x100m relay team. Su has been plagued by injury and fitness problems in recent seasons.