More Scandals at Tenth National Games

The previous post, The Scandals at the Tenth National Games, recounts a number of 'suspicious' incidents in which championship titles were conceded for strategic reasons.  Now the action has moved into the track & field events.

On the first day, there was the women's 10,000m track race.  The two big names in this race were the reigning Olympic champion Xing Huina and the national marathon recordholder Sun Yingjie.  Both Xing and Sun are trained by the same coach, Wang Dexian.  Here are the final results:

1. Xing Huina, 31:00.73
2. Sun Yingjie, 31:03.90
3. Zhou Chunxiu, 31:09.03

(Sohu, Sohu)

According to a reporter who did not wish to remain anonymous, the coach of Xing Huina, Wang Dexian boasted to the reporter before the race that the gold medal is Xing's for certain.

After the race, a reporter asked Wang Dexian: "Did you think that the result were what you expected?"  Wang's answer somewhat surprised the reporter: "Xing Huina was going to be the champion for certain."  "For certain?  That is, it was decided before the race?"  "Yes, didn't Sun Yingjie already get a gold medal yesterday?"  Wang Dexian evidently did not need to evade discussing this type of "fixing."  "But Xing Huina does have good speed."

As for their lacklustre performances, "Did you think that Sun Yingjie try her best?"  Wang Dexian said, "Not likely.  If she tried her best, it would not be like this."  Wang Dexian said that Sun Yingjie only put out a 70% effort.

"How about Xing Huina?"  "Xing Huina put in about a 60% effort.  She still has a 1,500m coming up, so there was no need to try too hard today ... besides, what is the point of doing so well inside the country?  Other people will say that we do well at home but we are useless when we go out."

At the press conference afterwards, one reporter brought up this sensitive topic to Xing and Sun.  Suddenly, the noisy conference room turned dead silent.  The dozens of photographers pointed their cameras at Xing.  For unknown reasons, Xing who had been conversing freely was tongue-tied and could not utter a world.  The other principal Sun looked at Xing but also had nothing to say.  It was very embarrassing.  From this, it is obvious that they have something that they cannot talk about.

At the next press conference, the deputy director of the Chinese track & field organization blasted the "false news" published in a certain newspaper (Digman).

Facing dozens of reporters, Feng Shuyong said: "I want to emphasize three points.  First, we have investigated and coach Wang Dexian said that he did not say anything like that to the reporters.  We have located that reporter, and she has admitted that she was in error ...  If anyone says that this gold medal was fixed, I can reponsibly say that this is rubbish!  You can write that Feng Shuyong said so.  If Wang Dexian really said that, then it is not consistent with the facts!  Any reporter who writes that is brain-dead and totally unfamiliar with track events."

As soon as Feng finished speaking, a female reporter stood up and said: "Until you have finished your basic investigation, is it appropriate for you to criticize reporters in that manner?  Yesterday, that were at least seven or eight reporters who heard Wang Dexian said that.  Is it appropriate for someone in your position to call reporters brain-dead?"

Feng Shuyong asked: "Did you personally hear that?"

"Of course, I heard it.  That was what he said and I wrote the same thing too."

What a public relations disaster!  The problem with the description of the above event is that it completely glosses over what must be considered one of the greatest athletic moments in history.  On Sunday, IAAF reports what happened in the city of Beijing:

Sun Yingjie won her fourth successive title at the 24th Beijing International Marathon. Opting to contest the marathon instead of the National Games 10,000m on Monday in Nanjing, Sun clocked a season's best 2:21:01, the third fastest performance of the year, finishing ten seconds ahead of Zhou Chunxiu's personal best 2:21:11, the year's fourth fastest.

Choosing to avoid a run-in with Olympic 10,000m champion Xing Huina on the track, Sun nonetheless had a fierce battle on her hands in the marathon, where she faced stiff competition from the marathon specialist Zhou, the fifth place finisher in the Helsinki World Championship. ...  Sun, who tried to break from Zhou throughout most of the race, finally succeeded in the final kilometer en route to the second fastest performance of her career, with Zhou close behind.

Beijing Marathon results
1. Sun Yingjie, CHN 2:21:01 
2. Zhou Chunxiu, CHN 2:21:11 

In the above, the IAAF reporter assumed what is conventional wisdom that Sun Yingjie had a choice of running a marathon in Beijing on Sunday OR the 10,000m race in Nanjing on Monday.  Given that Sun ran the marathon, the reporter assumed that Sun would not be in the 10,000m race.  There are not that many runners who have ever run 2:21:01; the times of Sun and Zhou are the fourth and fifth fastest world-leading times of 2005 (IAAF).  It is insanity to enter another long-distance competitive race the next day.

So it was that the IAAF covered the 10,000m track with this headline: "Xing Huina wins 10,000m, Sun and Zhou complete improbable double."

Xing Huina, the Olympic 10,000 metre champion, completed the first phase of her triple-win project to highlight the first day of the 10th Chinese National Games in Nanjing. on Monday evening.

In a fast-paced race, Xing won handily, clocking 31:00.73. But the biggest surprise was sprung by the runners who shared the race's fast tempo: Sun Yingjie and Zhou Chunxiu, the top-two finishers from yesterday's (16 October) Beijing International Marathon, who had decided after all to contest the race a little more than 30 hours after the conclusion of the marathon, in which each ran under 2:21:20.

As if the marathon and the two hour flight to Nanjing had no affect whatsoever, Sun finished second, only losing to Xing in the homestretch sprint, reaching the line in 31:03.90. Zhou, who took fifth in the Helsinki World Championships marathon, hung on for the bronze, clocking a big personal best of 31:09.03.

Xing Huina may have won the race, but so what?  Someone has to win it.  But the IAAF reporter thought that Sun and Zhou's performances were even greater.  Other people have attempted the 10,000m-marathon double.  (IAAF)  At the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Paula Radcliffe ran the 10,000m on Saturday (August 6) to finish ninth in 30:42.75, and then won the marathon in 2:20:57 on Sunday (August 14).  Thus, Paula Radcliffe had eight days to recover from the easier event.  It is with these kinds of comparisons that Sun and Zhou were considered to have completed the improbable double (in different cities on consecutive days).

As for the criticism that Xing and Sun did not look to have put in full efforts, that is what happens in championship races.  The goal in a championship is to win the race.  PERIOD.  In an IAAF Golden League race, there is a huge financial incentive to set a world record; in a championship race, the finishing time is immaterial and winning is everything.  This explains why championship times can be very much slower than the existing world records.  

In this race, Xing Huina knows that Sun must be affected by the marathon and that Xing has the faster finishing kick (note: Sun was running the marathon-10,000m-5,000m triple but Xing was running the 1,500m-5,000m-10,000m triple).  Therefore, Xing only had to stick with Sun and then turn on the afterburners in the last lap.  That was exactly what happened.  As for their silence at the press conference, what did you expect them to say?  They both knew what the strategic factors were, but it would be unseemly and boastful for Xing Huina to say: "I got better speed than Sun!" or for Sun Yingjie to say, "If I hadn't run that marathon yesterday, I would cleaned Xing's clock!"  We can only be grateful that trash-talking had not arrived in China yet.

Perhaps the problem here is that China does allow sports betting.  If there was an open market, Xing Huina would have been the odds-on favorite by a long shot, and then the outcome would not have 'shocked' the reporters who were hunting for yet another 'scandal' to titillate their readers.

Xing Huina would come back to become involved in yet another 'scandal.'  Here is the IAAF report:

Olympic 10,000m champion Xing Huina's quest for three gold medals came to an abrupt halt after her disqualification in the final of the 1500m, providing the major highlight of day three of the 10th Chinese National Games in Nanjing, eastern China.

Although she reached the line first in 4:03.98, the Shandong star, who won the 10,000 on Monday (17 October), was later disqualified for her obstruction over the final 200 metres. Entering the final curve, Xing and 19-year-old Shanxi athlete Liu Qing were well clear of the field with Xing leading. When Liu made her move for the lead, Xing clearly used her elbow to prevent Liu from passing and continued her obstruction through the final straight. Liu, who was later declared the winner, ran the second best junior time of the season, 4:04.00, bettering her personal best from last season by six-and-a-half seconds.

  Question: Was this an elbow, or a hold?

But the scandal is not the sanction for the violation of Article 163 for impeding the progress of another runner.  The real scandal is how the appeal was made.

(Sohu, Sohu, Sohu)  After the race, the Shanxi team was in turmoil because they believed that Liu Qing was fouled by Xing Huina.  As the reporter watched, suddenly a middle-aged female followed a man in the judge's uniform rushed by.  The woman said, "I beg you!  Give us justice!"  The reporter went over and saw that the female's badge said "Zhang Min, coach" while the man's badge asid "Yang Donghua, judge panel."

As Yang walked by briskly, he said: "We are still judging.  We will give you an explanation.  Don't worry.  Don't worry."

But suddenly, Zhang Min knelt down in front of Yang and said: "0.02 seconds.  Four years.  We have trained so hard.  Give us justice!"  By this time, reporters had the two surrounded and it was chaos.

The security detail took Yang into the elevator, but Zhang used her hands to hold the elevator door.  So Yang turned around and moved towards the track instead.  When she got to the entrance, the emotional Zhang fell down on her knees and yelled out, "Director Yang, you must have the Shanxi team a fair chance.  We cannot be denied this way ..."  When Yang saw Zhang on her knees, he quickly left the scene.  Zhang was left emotionally distressed, sitting on the floor.

At 11pm, the three-person panel of judges announced: "After reviewing the video tape repeatedly, we have decided to disqualify Xing Huina.  Therefore, Shanxi's Liu Qing is the national champion"  Immediately, the press conference broke into applause.

The real scandal is that a coach believes that she had to get down on her knees to beg for the obvious.

One more piece of scandal of a technical nature: In the women's 4x400m, the Shanghai team was disqualifed for two false starts.  With the Shanghai team off the track, the race started with another false start charged to the empty lane belonging to the Shanghai team.  The false-start detection equipment had malfunctioned!  Immediately, the organizers replaced the equipment and frantically tried to find the Shanghai team.  But when Shanghai came back, they were then told that they could not come back in anyway because they had been officially disqualified already.  Then the race started for a fourth time and there was another false start!  A videotape analysis found that no one had moved early.  Anyway, the race took place on the fifth try to a chorus of boos from the audience.  However, after appeal, the panel of judges allowed the Shanghai team to become the ninth team in the finals.