Athletics: Chinese skip Marathon

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The Independent Online
THE FIVE Chinese women athletes due to compete in the London Marathon on Sunday week were yesterday withdrawn in mysterious circumstances. The event's organisers were dismayed, but intend to invite the Chinese again next year, writes Mike Rowbottom.

The news came yesterday morning in a fax message from Mr Huang Zhi, general secretary of the Chinese Athletic Association, who said he had been consulting with the women's coach, Ma Junren. 'Due to bad health,' the fax read, 'some elite runners of this team have not had a regular training in recent period. Although we have tried hard in many ways, the runners are still not able to bear a marathon and now it is really difficult for them to take part in your event.

'Having received your telephone call of April 7, we made the final effort. But they are still unable to participate in your race. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience caused by this. This case is not decided by our subjective will.'

Junren and his runners, who include the world record holder at 3,000 and 10,000 metres, Wang Junxia, have previously been in dispute with their national federation over a lack of funding. They have threatened not to run unless the situation improves.

'We are obviously disappointed at the news,' David Bedford, the London Marathon's international race director, said. 'But while we don't fully understand the situation it will be important to remain in contact with the Chinese.

'We certainly intend to invite them again next year. I will be going out to China immediately after this year's marathon to talk to all the parties involved. I do not believe that they're not coming had anything to do with the deal we agreed.'