NAIROBI, July 10 (Xinhua) -- After dominating the Asian Youth Championships, China will be planning how best to extend the reign to Nairobi as the global athletics family descends in Kenya for the IAAF World U18 Championships, which starts on Wednesday.
With top countries United States, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand Britain missing in action, China will be the team to watch alongside hosts Kenya as the juggernaut that is the World Under 18 championships makes its final stop in Nairobi before it is abolished.
In a wide-open contest, Chinese athlete Niu Chunge will turn out as the favourite on paper, but she will face a formidable challeng from the rest of the line-up in the pole vault.
Entering the event with a personal best of 4.15m, Niu Chunge will be up against the likes of German athlete Leni Freyja Wildgrube (4.10m) and Mesure Tutku Yilmaz of Turkey, who has achieved a best height of 4.10m indoors and 4.05m outdoors.
With six of the nine girls in the field have cleared four meters this year, however, there will be no shocks on the podium, and with the event being contested as a straight final, there will be no room for mistakes.
Elsewhere, in the long jump, China will seek to make a mark in an event without a clear-cut favourite. Gong Luying who is leading the field with her 6.35m from the national U18 championships in April, which she followed with a win at the Asian U18 Championships a month earlier will be the athlete to watch.
Lea-Sophie Klik of Germany ranks just behind Gong with her recent 6.31m, which represented a new personal best by 23 centimetres. Next in line is Chantoba Bright of Guyana, who took the South American U20 title this year with 6.30m and is also the reigning Carifta Games U18 champion.
Beyond the top three, it is difficult to identify other top contenders. One possible dark horse is Kristine Blazevica of Latvia, who jumped 6.28m indoors this year, although her outdoor best remains a modest 5.84m.
China, with a team of 51 athletes, if the results at the Asian championships is anything to go by, will be the toughest side in the competition. In May in Bangkok, China won 16 of the 40 titles on offer.
The Chinese team will also be looking out at Feng Lulu, who won the 100m and 200m races in Bangkok as well as Liu Zhekai (javelin).