Ma Army set up new base camp

ATHLETICS China's "Ma Family Army" of record-breaking women's distance runners have been disbanded and will never reunite, the team-leader and double world champion, Wang Junxia, said yesterday.

Wang Junxia claimed that Ma Junren, the coach, had driven her and her team-mates to desperation with what she described as his dictatorial style and mercurial moods.

"We simply could not take it any longer," Wang Junxia said from Shenyang where the remnants of the Ma Family Army are setting up an independent training base after walking out.

"We had absolutely no freedom. We were all on the brink of going crazy. The pressure was too intense. We could not take it," the 21-year-old world record holder at 3,000 and 10,000 metres said. "The Ma Family Army has been disbanded and will never be brought back together."

Wang won the 10,000m at the World Championships in Stuttgart in August 1993. She then cut an astonishing 42 seconds from the world record a month later at China's national games and destroyed the 3,000m world record the same week. The following month shewon the World Cup marathon in Spain.

Saying there were "too many reasons" for the split, Wang Junxia added that a major factor was Ma's hoarding of his runners' cash and prizes - including three Mercedes cars that she, Qu Yunxia and Liu Dong were awarded for their performances in Stuttgart.