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London Olympics can be a turning point for Chinese race-walking

By Francesco Liello (Xinhua)

10:29, July 25, 2012

SALUZZO, Italy, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese elite race-walkers have been well-honed to make their mark in the upcoming London Olympic Games, according to the famed Italian coach Sandro Damilano.

Sandro Damilano, 62, a coach immersed in race walking for nearly 40 years, was confident that the four Chinese athletes he has been training for over three years are physically, mentally and technically prepared for the Olympics.

"I did change a lot about them, both technically and mentally, and also their way of living life. I believe we did a good job and I think we can hope to see them do really well in London," he said.

Chinese race-walkers have not tasted success in the Olympics since 2000 when they won their last gold in the women's 20-kilometer distance in Sydney.

Under the guidance of Damilano, Wang Zhen, Liu Hong, Si Tianfeng and Li Jianbo are supposed to have good chance to end the 12-year drought in London.

They will fly to London from their base in Saluzzo, a small Italian town near the border of France. Wang and Liu will compete in the men's and women's 20km race respectively, while Si and Li will vie for the gold in the men's 50km distance.

"I think they prepared for the Olympics very well. Since November they have either been training here in Saluzzo, or travelling around Europe to compete," Damilano said.

"They stayed at home for less than 40 days in between. I think that now all of them can be very competitive at the Olympics. London will mark a turning point for China's race-walking," he said.

Damilano accepted an offer from the Chinese Athletics Association after the Beijing Olympic Games, where his race-walkers won one gold and one bronze.

"In Beijing I reached one of the peaks in my coaching career, I needed new incentives to go on," he said.

"I realized that the Chinese Athletics Association's proposal was serious and they were ready to work following my pace, then I agreed to take the job," he recalled.

In March 2009, the first group of top Chinese race-walkers came to Saluzzo to train under him. Their co-operation did not kick off to a smooth start as the athletes had to change their life style as well as training and competing philosophy.

The young Chinese race-walkers then were not used to training abroad and competing in many different events, according to Damilano.

"The big problem for them was they worked hard but did not have a real planning. They could certainly put on some great performance during the year, but no one knew when it would happen," he said.

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