Wang prepared for long-running show

OLYMPIC GAMES: Pat Butcher on a tough schedule for China's big hope

As if the heat of Atlanta were not already daunting enough for the distance runners, the double world record-holder, Wang Jun Xia of China, is preparing to run four races in five days. That is assuming she gets through the heats of both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres today and tomorrow but, as the outstanding world record holder for the 3,000 and 10,000m, that should not be a problem.

Wang, who shattered those records in 1993 after winning the world 10,000m title in Stuttgart, was a member of the squad coached by the now infamous Ma Junren. But Wang and most of her colleagues left the coach two years ago, accusing him of tyrannical behaviour and of with-holding their prize- money and grants.

Wang trained by herself for a year without anything like the results she achieved under Ma but, for the last 10 months, she has been coached by Mao Tse Zhen. She has the fastest time of the year for 10,000m, 31min 1.76sec, albeit one and a half minutes slower than her world record. Her 5,000m time of 14:51.87 ranks her fifth.

On arrival three days ago, she confirmed that she was intending to race at both 5,000m and 10,000m. But she did add the proviso that if the 5,000 heats, which take place today proved too strong, then she might consider avoiding the longer distance, despite being favourite for the title. The 10,000m heats take place tomorrow evening, and the 5,000m final is on Sunday.

Wang has been training for almost three months at 2,900m altitude in the town of Tuo Pa in Tsing Hai province. Wang named Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan and the world record holder, Fernanda Ribeiro, of Portugal as favourites for the 5,000m, and the reigning Olympic champion, Derartu Tulu, of Ethiopia as her main opponent for the longer race.

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