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UK university hosts 15 Chinese runners and walkers


15:41, July 18, 2012

An athlete runs on a synthetic running track at St. Mary's University College in southwest London in July 2012. (Photo/China Daily)

St. Mary's University College will become the pre-Olympics training base for 15 Chinese athletes, as a result of a friendship that started two years ago.

The athletes, who represent China in long-distance running and race walking, will stay at the university, in southwest London, for about a week to acclimate to British conditions before heading to the Olympic Village, which is an hour away in east London. The athletes will arrive at different times. The first will come on July 21, and the last will leave on Aug 12. They will be accompanied by 35 support staff, including coaches, officials and a cook.

"We feel confident that the Chinese team will be satisfied with our facilities, as we have hosted them twice already," said Dick Fisher, head of 2012 preparations at the university.

In 2010, a St. Mary's coach was contacted by a Chinese counterpart, who asked if his team could use St. Mary's facilities for a short period of training.

"We managed to arrange that at fairly short notice, and the group came, and we found them pleasant and dignified people to be around," Fisher recalled.

The runners enjoyed their stay, and asked if they could come again the following year.

Fisher's team was "delighted", and the friendship grew. Shortly after, the Chinese Athletics Federation made a formal approach to discuss prospects of a pre-Olympic training camp and the rest is history.

China's star hurdler, Liu Xiang, also once considered basing his pre-Olympics training at St. Mary's. He stayed for about three days to test the university's training facilities after competing at the Birmingham Grand Prix meet this February.

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