By Xinhua writer Wang Xiaopeng NAIROBI
(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 in Eldoret town, an area
which is fondly referred to as the “Home of Champions.”
middle distance runner from Gansu Province who usually competes
in the 3,000 meters steeple chase represented China during the
2016 Rio Olympic Games.
It was a watershed
moment for Zhang and five other Chinese track and field icons
when they landed in Kenya at the peak of the rainy season in
April to meet the country’s big names in middle and
long-distance races and participate in a joint special training
Zhang and her five
colleagues from Yunnan province were quick to acclimatize to the
humid weather and rugged terrain of 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 duet, despite
the language barrier, developed an instant chemistry as they
shared fond memories of participating in the highly competitive
races where they earned the 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
re-union of two middle distance runners from countries of stark
cultural, economic and geographical diversity appeared like a
script meant for a block buster motion picture.
“I could not imagine
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.H She
revealed that she has always held Kenyan middle and long
distance runners in 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 I 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 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 when visiting Beijing and Shanghai,
coming face to face with China’s economic and industrial
The joint training
program with Chinese counterparts is a symbol of a Sino-Kenyan
partnership that has blossomed in a number of ways.
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.”
On the ground,
Kenya’s high altitude landscapes offers an ideal training ground
for Chinese athletes aiming to maintain their edge in major
Zhang and her
colleagues were beaming with confidence as they prepared for the
final lap of their grueling training in the Eldoret camp, 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
Guizhou Province in June.
Zhang Guowei, a
coach of the Yunnan track and field team, said the training in
Eldoret boosted the endurance of Chinese athletes as they
prepare for upcoming races.
“Training at an
elevated altitude that is energy sapping will help Chinese
athletes handle grueling races at home and in foreign countries
with ease,” he remarked.
Zhang Guowei led the
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.
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 like Jepkemoi.
“It was quite an
experience to learn and train in Kenya, especially when we are
young,” Dong said. “The atmosphere of competing with outstanding
people and focusing on running fast helps me a lot.”