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Su Bingtian 苏炳添: Asia’s New Sprint Star
May 8, 2012Posted by on
I was awestruck by Su Bingtian’s (苏炳添) victory at the recently concluded Super Grand Prix in Kawasaki. The Chinese 100m dash record holder, stopped the clock at a wind-aided 10.04s (+ 2.9 m/s). The young Su, still only 22-years old, edged out experienced international campaigners Mike Rodgers (10.05s) and Kim Collins (10.07s). Rodgers is the 60m dash World indoor silver medalist from Doha. The ageless Collins, a respected figure in athletics circle, won a memorable 100m dash bronze in Daegu – seven years after his unexpected world title in Paris.
The fast-starting Collins grabbed the early lead. Both Su and Rodgers overtook Collins at the latter parts of the race. Perhaps the overly windy conditions (the flags were visibly flapping) blew the field wide open. Jet lag could have slowed down the reaction times of the Western sprinters, to the advantage of the acclimatized and well-adapted Su. Nevertheless, the Chinese upstart achieved a confidence boosting victory.
The Japanese are, by far, Asia’s most illustrious sprinting nation. Over the long history of the modern Olympic Games, Asians have won flat sprinting medals twice – Susantika Jayasinghe’s (சுசந்திக ஜெயசிங்க்ஹி) 200m dash silver (originally a bronze) in Sydney and Japan’s 4x100m relay bronze in Beijing. At the World Championships, Jayasinghe’s 200m silver (Athens 1997) and bronze (Osaka 2007) and Shingo Suetsugo’s (末續 慎吾) 200m dash bronze in Paris (2003) comprise the continent’s total medal haul in the biennial event.
Su’s curriculum vitae is impressive. He had won 100m dash gold medals at the 2010 Asian Games and the 2011 Asian Championships, prior to winning a bronze during last year’s World University Games in China.
In a span of 5 years, Su had lowered his 100m dash personal best from 10.59s in 2006 to 10.16s in 2011- a Chinese national record. Su’s best finish in a a major championship is 5th place at the 60m dash semis at the Istanbul World Indoor Championships, where he clocked 6.74s – almost two-hundredths of second slower than his 6.58s Chinese national record.
To put things into perspective, the standing Asian continental record is held by the Nigerian-born Samuel Francis at 9.99s. The Japanese troika of Koji Ito 伊東 浩司 (10.00s), Nobuharo Asahara (朝原 宣治) (10.02s) and Suetsugo (10.03s are the fastest natural-born Asians. It could take some time for Su to approach the 10-second barrier legally, but he does have a fighting chance.
I firmly believe that Asians aren’t genetically slower than athletes of West African descent (Chinese weightlifters have won gold medals in the explosive event). Perhaps it’s just a cultural manner (I’d have to look for that particular Danish study) and the fact that, historically, Asian performance in athletics has been generally below par.
As Su matures as an athlete, I hope he stays injury free. Asia could sure use another athletics icon.