Feature: Chinese athletes training in Kenya's "Home of Champions" to sharpen skills

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-11 17:18:05|Editor: Xiang Bo
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NAIROBI, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Xinyan had sound knowledge of Kenya's prowess in the global athletics circuit before she visited the East African nation in late April to participate in a month-long training inside and outside Eldoret town, an area which is fondly referred to as the "Home of Champions".

The 24-year-old middle distance runner from China's Gansu Province competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

It was a watershed moment for Zhang and five other Chinese track and field elites when they landed in Kenya at the peak of the rain season in April to meet the country's big names in middle and long-distance races and participate in a joint special training course.

Zhang and her five colleagues from Yunnan province were quick to acclimatize themselves with the humid weather and rugged terrain in Eldoret as they embarked on a journey to rediscover their racing mojo.

During the training at the modern track owned by Moi University located on the outskirts of Eldoret Town, Zhang reunited with Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi, a 26-year-old Kenyan 3,000-meter steeplechase icon who bagged gold at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing and a silver medal at 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The duo, despite the language barrier, had an instant chemistry as they shared fond memories of participating in the highly competitive races where they earned global spotlight.

In August 2016, Zhang and Jepkemoi met at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Jenairo, Brazil where Chinese and Kenya's big names in track and field were conspicuous.

The unexpected reunion of two middle distance runners from countries with stark cultural, economic and geographical diversity appeared like a script meant for a blockbuster motion picture.

"I could not fathom a reunion with somebody I consider a heroine in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and our training here in the Home of Champions will definitely be a game changer in our career in track and field," Zhang told Xinhua during an interview in Eldoret.

She revealed that she has always held Kenyan middle and long distance runners with high esteem and participating in a joint training with them would be a boon to her career in the track.

"It feels great to mingle with personalities who have dominated the global middle and long-distance races in their hometown. This experience will ultimately have a positive impact on the future races that am slated to participate in," said Zhang.

Jepkemoi too hailed the reunion with Zhang and her five colleagues, describing it as a joyous occasion since it was her first time to train together with Chinese athletes in her hometown.

She grew up in a hilly village near Eldoret town and was inspired by relatives and neighbors who made a mark in national athletic championships back in the day.

Jepkemoi developed a strong affection for China having visited Beijing and Shanghai extensively where she came face to face with China's economic and industrial miracle.

The joint training program with Chinese counterparts is timely as an symbol of Sino-Kenya partnership in different spheres of life blossom.

On the ground, Kenya's high altitude landscapes offers an ideal training ground for Chinese athletes aiming to maintain their edge in major global races.

Zhang and her colleagues were beaming with confidence as they prepared for the final lap of their grueling training in the Eldoret camp that is about 2,000 meters above sea level.

She revealed the training prepared them adequately for a national track and field contest to be held in Guiyang City, capital of southwestern China's Guizhou province in June.

Zhang Guowei, a coach of the Yunnan track and field team, said the grueling training in Eldoret boosted the endurance of Chinese athletes as they prepare for upcoming races at home and abroad.

"Training at an elevated altitude that is energy sapping will help Chinese athletes handle grueling races at home and foreign countries with ease," Zhang remarked.

He led the strong team of six athletes from China that included the famous male marathoner, Dong Guojian and female long-distance runner, Zhang Deshun, both from Yunnan Province.

Dong said it was quite an experience to run in Kenya, which is home to so many champions on field and track. "The atmosphere of focusing on running fast helps me a lot."

During the month-long training at the Eldoret Camp, the Chinese runners also met about 60 local athletes, some of whom are renowned world champions and Olympic medalists just like Jepkemoi.

Gilbert Sang, an emerging 21-year-old long-distance runner, also enjoyed the company of Chinese athletes. He said the Chinese runners are diligent and easy-going.