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2017 IAAF World Championships

Now for the Asian Games, Hong Kong race walker Jessica Ching eyes medal

After her astonishing performance at the IAAF world championships, where she broke her own 20k Hong Kong record by nine seconds, 30-year-old is aiming for a podium finish in Jakarta

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 6:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 August, 2017, 10:31pm

Twenty-four hours after doing Hong Kong proud at the IAAF world championships, race walker Jessica Ching Siu-nga has set a new target of reaching the podium at next year’s Asian Games in Jakarta – and knocking another minute off her best time.

Ching was Hong Kong’s sole representative in London, where she turned in an astonishing performance, making good on her promise that she would improve her national record in the 20km walk. Racing in sunny conditions, the 30-year-old full-time athlete held her own against the world’s best walkers to finish in a creditable 35th place in a new national time of 1:35.04. That time was also a personal best for the Lindenwood University (Missouri) graduate.

“The race was amazing. My goal was [to clock] 1:34.30. However, I didn’t expect it to be that warm on race day. A personal best was great and that proved my training was good and I was in good shape. It was an exciting competition,” Ching told the Post on Monday.

“There were a lot of supporters along the course to cheer us. I was really enjoying the race even though I was pretty tired in the end. I have already achieved my goal this year at the world championships. It’s hard to compete in two races within three weeks [with the National Games in Tianjin coming up]. I will see how my body recovers from this race,” she said.

Ching not only broke the national record by nine seconds, she also put the disappointment of missing out on qualifying for last year’s Rio Olympics firmly behind her. This time, she performed the race of her life, which will definitely put her in good stead for Jakarta, where she’s seen as a genuine medal hope.

“I will target to improve my personal best by another one minute next year,” she said, although admitting it’s unlikely to be in Jakarta. “The Asian Games will be held in Indonesia [Jakarta], so it’s going to be very hot. My target for that race is position, not time,” she said. “I want to finish on the podium.”

For the moment at least, Ching can celebrate her encouraging performance in London, having achieved her goal of qualifying for the world championships and improving the national mark for the second time inside five months.

“I prepared well for the race. I spent four months preparing for the world championships after I qualified. When I failed to qualify for Rio last year, I tried so hard to get what I lost last year. I wanted to prove that I had the ability to go to the Olympics.”

Ching’s single-minded approach to improving her times has paid rich dividends so far this year. In April, she finished third at the Hungarian national championships, where she clocked 1:35.13. That time shattered her previous best time by one minute and 36 seconds. It was also 47 seconds inside the required qualifying mark for London.

“From that finishing photo, you can see my emotional expression. It’s the biggest smile I have had for a year,” she said at the time.

Ching was also confident of reaching the qualifying mark for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“My target will be how to qualify for it. I hope more people can know more about race walking in Hong Kong. Thank you MTR Hong Kong for promoting race walking for the last few years. I hope this will continue,” she said.

China’s Yang Jiayu won the women’s 20-kilometre walk in London, finishing in a personal best time of 1:26.18 for the two-kilometre loop, only one second ahead of Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez, of Mexico. Antonella Palmisano, of Italy, was third in 1:26:36.