Chinese athletes flexed their collective muscles again, setting one world, 16 Asian and 30 national records at the 11th National Games, which ended in Shandong province last night.
The outstanding results at the country's biggest sports gala have provided a confidence boost and China is now looking optimistically towards the 2012 London Olympics.
"This National Games is one of only two multi-sports events for us before the London Games, so it is very important to our Olympic preparation," Xiao Tian, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sport, the governing body of China's sports, said yesterday.
"Some good results have boosted our confidence, especially Liu Zige in swimming and Li Yanxi in track and field. There are also some youngsters emerging in traditionally strong events such as badminton, table tennis, weightlifting and shooting," he said.
China's Olympic champion Liu set a world record of 2:01:81 in the women's 200m butterfly final at the Games, knocking about a second and a half off the previous mark set by Australian Jessicah Schipper at the Rome World Championships in August.
In the men's triple jump, Li, of Hebei, jumped 17.59m, smashing the Asian record of 17.35 and also refreshing the longest standing Chinese track and field record which was set in 1981 by Zou Zhenxian.
On the weightlifting stage, 10 women's world records were beaten, including three apiece in the 48kg, 53kg and 63kg divisions and a snatch world record in the over 75kg division. On the men's side, two world marks were bettered. Promisingly, most of the men's top performers are in their early 20s.
"We have young successors in each category," said Chen Wenbin, head coach of the men's national squad. "The team will be assembled at the end of the year. The young weightlifters are still on the rise. If they train hard for two or three years we will have the chance to strive for gold in all categories in London."
Smashing world records is nothing new in weightlifting at the National Games. However, this month's outstanding performances will not be written into the record books because the sport's governing body, the International Weightlifting Federation, only recognizes records set at world, continental and Olympic competitions.
At the shooting range, the competition was also deemed as fierce as that of an Olympic Games as most of the Beijing champions failed to even medal. Twenty-year-old Yi Siling claimed gold in the women's 10m air rifle, beating a group of the world's leading shooters including two-time Olympic champion Du Li and World Cup final winner Wu Liuxi.
Mai Jiajie, 23, won then men's 10m air rifle, which also featured veteran stars such as Olympic champion Pang Wei and the runner-up Tan Zongliang.
Despite the emerging talent and stellar results, Xiao remains concerned about the overall level of sport in China.
"We still see that Chinese athletes play badly at some events like soccer, basketball, wrestling and cycling, especially the men. We are still lagging behind the world's elite," Xiao said. "We need to improve in those events and strive to the raise the level for the London Games."
The National Games have been held every four years since 1959. More than 10,900 athletes competed at the 13-day competition in Shandong. Some events, including fencing, gymnastics and beach volleyball, were completed before the official opening of the Games.