Cape Town - Su Bingtian's Asian Games gold in the 100 metres
came as little surprise to many, including athletics boss Sebastian Coe, long
an admirer of the pint-sized Chinese sprinter.
The 28-year-old streaked to victory in a competition record
of 9.92 seconds in Jakarta at the weekend, missing the continental record by
the tiniest of fractions.
Su edged out Nigeria-born Qatari Tosin Ogunode - younger
brother of Femi Ogunode, with whom the Chinese star shares the continental best
of 9.91 - on a night when six African-born athletes bagged six track and field
golds at Asia's showcase sports event.
Ryota Yamagata - part of the 4x100m Japan team that took
silver behind Usain Bolt's Jamaica at the 2016 Rio Olympics, took bronze,
underlining Coe's confidence in the future of Asian sprinting.
"You could argue Japan and China are two of the most
improved athletics nations over the last six or seven years," the Briton
said in an interview with news agencies.
"For me it's very clear - they're making very good
progress. If we'd been sitting here a decade ago, talking about potential here
for a China athlete to run 9.8, you'd have probably taken quite long odds on
Coe, president of track and field's governing IAAF, pointed
to China's willingness to embrace overseas coaches after years of fostering
suspicion of state-sponsored doping.
Su is coached by American coach Randy Huntington, while swim
star Sun Yang's partnership with Australian Denis Cotterell has helped turn him
into a world-beater.
"If you look at the Chinese federation, they've been
quite global," said Coe. "They've recognised there are gaps in their
own coaching structures and said 'hey, let's bring that talent to the table'.
"It's a pragmatic approach. There's been a greater
clarity around the importance of coaching."
Coe is aware of the massive void left by athletics mega-star
Bolt after the Jamaican legend's retirement last year. But he also wants
athletes to be personalities who can connect with fans.
"I'm a boxing fan," said Coe, twice an Olympic 1
"If we'd been sitting in the 70s, you'd probably be
saying to me what on earth are we going to be doing after Muhammad Ali? But
actually, Floyd Mayweather, Hagler, Hearns come along.
"Do they suddenly replace Muhammad Ali? No. Should we
suddenly expect these athletes to replace him? No," he added.
"Because Usain is not simply thought about at the
status that he's thought about because he's got a sack full of world records
and he's got a clutch of Olympic titles.
"It's actually because he's a personality. It's
performance plus personality. We've got to help the athletes tell their
Su himself is a superstar in China, although he has some way
to achieve the celebrity that pin-up Liu Xiang achieved after winning 110m
hurdles gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"There was more pressure here than at a world
championships," said Su, swallowed by a scrum of state media after his
"Everybody expected me to win so I kept telling myself
to stay calm. I just found a way. It's a massive victory for me."