Chinese long distance runner Zhou Chunxiu eyes gold

July 22nd, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 22 (Xinhua) Despite her low-key build-up for the Olympics, Zhou Chunxiu carries the Chinese women’s hope of winning an Olympic gold from the track and field in the absence of compatriot Xing Huina, the defending champion in the women’s 10,000 metres who pulled out due to injuries. On April 22, 2007, the 29-year-old Zhou became the first Chinese to win the London Marathon, one of the most famous long distance races in the world.

Five months later, struggling with an ankle injury, she made history again by winning the silver medal in the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan. This made her the first Chinese to win a marathon medal in the World Championships.

Born in a farmer’s family in central China’s Henan province, she became a professional middle distance runner at the age of 18. While she was well on course to stardom, she was told to quit marathon running because of serious ankle injuries.

She then retired in 2000 and was enrolled in the Suzhou University for a college degree. But her passion for running never vanished. She joined the Suzhou track and field club in her spare time and started running again.

The first international race event she attended was the Xiamen Marathon in March 2003. She beat some Ethiopian runners, all pre-race favourites, and ran away with the gold. This happened only four years after she started systematic marathon training.

In the following two years, she won a gold medal in the 2006 Asian Games.

“She is really hard working and can persist under very high pressure. She is also very smart and can always keep a clear mind,” said her coach Liang Songli.

“She ran 40 km daily during winter training. That means one whole marathon every day. I was really impressed by her devotion into this,” Liang added.

Zhou did not participate in so many races this year as before in order to save some energy. “I will only take half marathon and 10,000 metres races to help maintain the best shape,” she said.

In the “Good Luck Beijing” 2008 marathon race in April, Zhou took her last chance for a trial run before the Olympic Games. She finished in 2:37:49 seconds, 18 minutes slower than her personal best performance.

“It was just a trial run for me. Both my coach and I are not so serious about the result,” said Zhou after the race. “I guess the weather would be very hot in August, which will be a big challenge for all athletes. I will try my best, but there will be no guarantee for a win.”

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