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Feature: Heptathlon ace Zheng Ninali focused on Asian Games 2022

N.C.N. Limited 徽标 N.C.N. Limited 2021/9/25 Yao Youming,Li Dian,Niu Mengtong,Geng Huihuang
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Zheng Ninali after the 800m heptathlon at China's 14th National Games in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, Sept. 25, 2021. (Xinhua/Song Yanhua)

After winning the heptathlon at China's National Games, naturalized Chinese heptathlete Zheng Ninali has her sights set on the 2022 Asian Games.

By sportswriters Yao Youming, Li Dian and Niu Mengtong

XI'AN, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Naturalized Chinese athlete Zheng Ninali dominated the women's heptathlon event at the ongoing China's 14th National Games here on Saturday.

Canada-born Zheng, 22, won five of seven disciplines, and was satisfied with her result of 6,026 points.

"We encountered rainy days during the seven disciplines. I have competed in five heptathlons this season. I am tired, so my only goal here was reaching the highest step of the podium," Zheng told Xinhua.

This summer, Zheng made up for her grandmother Zheng Fengrong's regret at missing out on the 1956 Olympic Games by finishing 10th at the Tokyo Olympics with 6,318 points. Zheng Fengrong, now 84, is the first female Chinese athlete to break a world record, and the first one to achieve such a feat in athletics for China.

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Zheng poses after the women's heptathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Aug. 5, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Ming)

At the awarding ceremony on Saturday, Zheng and coach Duan Qiyan, who is also her grandfather, were presented with a gold medal each.

After Zheng Ninali's mother got divorced in 2000, Zheng Fengrong and Duan began to help take care of Zheng Ninali and her elder brother Zheng Enlai.

"When Tiger (Enlai) went roller skating at six, Nina (Ninali) kept running after him. Little Nina was a courageous girl. She even jumped off from a one-meter high platform when she was a kid," recalled Zheng Fengrong.

"Both Nina and Tiger inherited our family's sporting talent."

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Zheng (L) and her coach and grandfather Duan Qiyan receive their heptathlon gold medals at China's 14th National Games, Sept. 25, 2021. (Xinhua/Peng Ziyang)

Duan became Zheng Ninali's coach when she took up athletics at a young age in Canada. In 2017, Zheng took part in China's 13th National Games in Tianjin as an overseas athlete of Chinese heritage.

After taking a silver medal in 2018 Commonwealth Games for Canada, Zheng Ninali told her grandmother that she wanted to represent China at the Tokyo Olympics, fulfilling her family's Olympic dream.

"At that moment, I hugged her and burst into tears," Zheng Fengrong said.

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Zheng looks on before the heptathlon 100m hurdles event at Tokyo 2020, Aug. 4, 2021. (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)

To fulfil her dream, Zheng Ninali trained by herself in the United States as a college student amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

To prepare for both the Olympic Games and National Games, Zheng Ninali dropped out of school and left for China in December 2020.

"The country supported me a lot," she said. "When you are abroad, you can't imagine that the government gives you such good training environments. I have progressed a lot this season."

"The audience in the stadium tonight encouraged me a lot. I think my results will improve in the future," Zheng added.

After a busy season, Zheng said that she would have a short break before preparing for the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province.

"I will try to win the women's heptathlon at the Asian Games," Zheng said with confidence. 

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