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The first three national team athletes performed outstandingly, creating a clear advantage for the team.
But at the games, there were still a lot of foreign coaches and athletes who didn't project the national team to be the winner.
The fourth runner, Haiquan Fang, was a long jumper, which was a big issue. In the relay race, a long jumper's speed might only be fractions of a second slower than a professional sprinter, yet in a high level competition like this, such a time difference was decisive.
The fourth leg was the final spurt, so every team put their best sprinter in this leg. Compared to them, the national team's last runner, Haiquan Fang, was just a makeshift addition. Undoubtedly, his leg would be the weakest part of the national team's performance.
It seemed to return to Tian Ji's horse race, using a first-rate horse to fight against a low-level horse, but this time the poor horse was Haiquan Fang of the national team, while the nice horse was the last runners from other foreign teams.
We still have a chance! Bassoon the Thailand chief coach thought. The other foreign team coaches all secretly thought the same.
Li Xue felt like his heart was in his throat, while the other team members all wore anxious expressions.
Haiquan Fang's speed was increasing so quickly, it was clear he didn't plan to play it safe at all.
Meanwhile Yue Zhao, the third runner who was going to pass the baton to Haiquan Fang, didn't slow down either, rushing into the exchanging zone, preparing to deliver the baton to Haiquan Fang.
Please make it! Li Xue involuntarily prayed in his heart, but it was too late to pray for fortune. He could only hope that the two athletes in the field could exchange the baton successfully.
Yue Zhao caught up and was right behind Haiquan Fang. He didn't hesitate, directly putting the baton in Haiquan Fang's hand, and gave Fang the order to start running at the same time.
Haiquan Fang didn't do things sloppily. He grasped the baton, then dashed forward.
The whole process went smoothly, and the cooperation between the two looked pretty good, especially Haiquan Fang, who had acted calmly, even accomplishing the task with ease. He didn't look like a substitute at all.
Yes, no mistake! Excellent! Li Xue's pounding heart gradually calmed down, but in the next second, Li Xue suddenly wondered, Yue Zhao and Haiquan Fang cooperated perfectly in the last exchange process, like they had worked together for a long time, but in fact, they only practiced together for one day. How come they have developed such closeness?
Li Xue had been a sprint coach for decades, gaining great experience. It was not the first time for him to ask long jumpers to fill in for a relay race. However, in all the previous races, the long jumper wasted time while exchanging the baton.
Yet today was different. In the last baton exchange, the long jumper hadn't wasted a second, instead acting seamlessly with his teammate. Yue Zhao and Haiquan Fang's teamwork would never be seen in any other new pairs who had only been working together for one day.
How did Li do it? Li Xue couldn't keep his eyes from straying towards him.
Not far away, Bassoon, Thailand's chief coach, was sallow-faced.
They succeeded! The whole process went seamlessly! How could this even be possible? Isn't that long jumper an alternate? Shouldn't they have cooperated poorly? But their performance, their exchanging process, it looked like they had been training together for weeks! It doesn't make any sense! Why?
Bassoon furrowed his eyebrows, wondering, Perhaps the long jumper was already on the team when they began relay preparations? No, it couldn't be! Their coach would never be able to predict that one of the four runners would miss the race, and he would never let a long jumper participate in relay training beforehand!
Currently, Bassoon was anxious. The national team hadn't messed up in the last baton exchange, and they maintained their great advantage. The probability of Thailand winning the champion decreased as the finish line approached.
At the same time, an exclamation came from the Japanese team's coach. Japan had made a mistake on their final exchange.
The fourth runner held his arm back earlier than he had been supposed to, which led to a situation where the third runner didn't fully hand the baton to him. Hence, the two had to redo the baton handoff in order to complete the action. This mistake had added at least 0.3 seconds on the Japanese team's final time.
Due to this mistake, Japan was no longer in the gold-medal match. With their nice teamwork, Thailand had passed Japan by a long distance.
However, no joy could be seen on Bassoon's face. Although Thailand was still in second, as the chief coach of Thailand's national team, second place was definitely not what he wanted.
Thai sprinters had terrible individual abilities, rarely appearing in high-level big stages like the Olympics or World Championships. To them, the Asian Games would probably be their highest-level competition, but even so, they couldn't win any medals in individual events. Therefore, the only event they could rely on was the relay race.
In the past four years, Thailand had concentrated on the relay, aiming at winning gold in this Asian Games.
This year's Asian relay race made Thailand feel like there was a heavenly hand helping them to win. The traditionally strong Japanese team had a mix of old and young athletes, last year's champion team, Qatar, had lost runners and had to retire this year, and even the host team had lost a runner, using a long jumper as the alternate. Bassoon felt that this year, Thailand must win!
Unfortunately, the race didn't go as he expected. Thailand was good at exchanges, but now that the last cooperation was finished, there was no more chance left for them to gain a lead again, so they would still remain in second place.
Mochai, it's your turn. The last host runner is a long jumper, you can definitely run faster than him!
On the track, Haiquan Fang was sprinting hard.
He knew, as a long jumper, that he might not run as fast as professional sprinters in the 100m sprint.
He also knew that the last run was decisive, determining the final results of the race.
The national team had taken the lead for the first three legs; Guohong Niu, Sijie Yang, and Yue Zhao had already created a sufficient advantage for Haiquan Fang, now all the heavy responsibility shifted to him! As a long jumper, he would decide the winner of this relay race!
Haiquan Fang didn't want to, nor could he fail. He was carrying his three teammates' efforts, also shouldering the huge expectations from the whole national team!
I'm not a sprinter, but when it comes to speed, I will never be defeated by you! Haiquan Fang snorted in his heart. His stubbornness surfaced, stimulating him to dash forward bravely.
A-level talent in the long jump didn't mean that the athlete could only jump further than the others. A comprehensive physicality was needed for long jumping, containing explosive force, jumping ability, body-control, balancing competence, run-up speed, and more.
Many world-standard long jumpers' 100m sprint marks easily reached the Olympics A-level standard, let alone one who had once won two championships: both long jump and the 100m sprint.
Haiquan Fang's talent in long jump made him a future world champion. At the present, since he had not reached his peak yet, if asked to compete in the 100m sprint, he was still far behind the top world sprinters, but among Asian sprinters, he was at the top.
Besides, when the baton was passed into Haiquan Fang's hand, the national team had gained a huge lead. As long as his speed was not too much slower than Mochai, the Thai sprinter, the national team's first place would be guaranteed.
The audience started cheering. They didn't care about whether Haiquan Fang was a long jumper or not, they only knew that Haiquan Fang was in first.
He's so fast! How can that long jumper run so fast! What Bassoon had always expected hadn't happened, as Haiquan Fang's speed was similar to Mochai's. Based on the distance between the two, the result was a foregone conclusion!
"We win!" Although Haiquan Fang hadn't crossed the finish line yet, the national team coaches had begun cheering and celebrating.
Bassoon painfully covered his face in hands. To him, the gold medal was stolen right from under his nose, the four years effort he had put into it completely in vain!
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