Chinese sprint legend Su Bingtian on Monday announced he will not race at this year's World Athletics Championships and the Hangzhou Asian Games due to injuries.
"Because of my physical condition, I have decided not to participate in the trials for this year's World Athletics Championships and the Asian Games. I am ending my 2023 season," Su, the men's 100m Asian record holder, wrote on Weibo.
"As a 34-year-old sprinter, I have sustained many injuries through the years which have made it difficult to prepare for this season. I have been struggling to cope physically with my training, and my team has conducted a series of tests on my body. I have also sought advice and help from many people.
"Therefore, based on expert medical opinion and after discussions with my team, I have to give up on this season. A period of rest and recuperation is required to ensure I can have a longer athletic career. I will pay close attention to the forthcoming world championships and the Asian Games, and I will be cheering for all of Team China's athletes."
The shock announcement instantly became a trending topic on Chinese social media. The hashtag "Su Bingtian quits 2023 world championships and Asian Games" had been viewed over 15 million times in just an hour, with netizens wishing the veteran a speedy recovery.
Su has been one of China's brightest stars on the track in recent years.
He dashed into the history books at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 by becoming the first Chinese to reach an Olympic 100m final, refreshing the Asian record to 9.83 seconds in the process in his semifinal.
Last year, Su became an Olympic medalist after Team China was promoted to third place in the men's 4x100m relay final in Tokyo due to the disqualification of second-place Britain over a failed drugs test.
In 2015, Su became the first-ever Asian-born sprinter to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m. In 2018, he twice equaled the previous Asian record of 9.91, and clocked 9.92 to take that year's Asian Games 100m title in Jakarta.
As the reigning Asian Games 100m champion, Su was expected to be one of the main attractions for home fans in Hangzhou. His best performance this season was a 60m gold (6.59 sec) at an indoor meet in Gothenburg, Sweden in February.
"Su started this season with a victory in February, which was considered a sign that the veteran could shine at the world championships and the Asian Games this year. After that indoor event, Su originally planned to compete in more events to level up his condition," read a commentary by thepaper.cn.
"Su Bingtian had already said that Hangzhou could be his last Asian Games and he really hoped to go for glory again on the track. He has reached the twilight of his career. He has trained for the last two years in Guangdong, where he also acted as a mentor for younger runners.
"Su has been trying his best to maintain his own fitness. He wanted to display the persistence which will inspire the younger generation to keep up his pace."
Su stressed that he is not entertaining any thoughts of retirement just yet, and should his recovery go as planned, he will be targeting a spot at next year's Paris Olympics.
"I won't stop chasing my dreams. I will use this period to recover and I will prepare as best I can for the Paris Olympics," he wrote on Weibo.
"I want to thank everyone for all their care and support. See you again next season."
Su's withdrawal is a blow to Team China's hopes of topping the podium in Hangzhou, with the recent form of other nations — particularly Japan — suggesting the host faces an uphill task to claim gold in the 100m and 4x100m competitions.
Xie Zhenye will now spearhead China's challenge in Hangzhou. The 29-year-old holds the 200m Asian record and was a member of the medal-winning 4x100m relay team in Tokyo.
Xie's fastest 100m time this season was 10.05 in Chongqing earlier this month after spending months at a training camp in the United States.
"The national championships were the first event I participated in since my return from the training camp, where I made many adjustments," said Xie after the nationals.
"I've still got the trials for the Asian Games and world championships to come this year. These are all tough challenges, and I will have to keep leveling up. I feel like I've been pretty solid this year.
"I hope I can make some breakthroughs at this year's Asian Games at home."