Olympic Stories

Wang Junxia

Wang Junxia

Wang Junxia is a renowned female professional Chinese runner. She was born on 19th January 1973. Her home town was Jiaohe in Jilin City, China. Her preferred category was long distance running. Junxia had a relatively short career and retired in 1996 at the age of just 23. Junxia is married to Zhan Yu.

In 1992 Junxia entered into the 10,000 metre race in the World Junior Championships in Seoul, where she won while racing against Gete Wami, an Ethiopian runner who was on top form at the time. The following year, Junxia ran a marathon where she broke the world record and Asian record at the time, completing the entire run in 2:24:07.

A month later she broke the Asian record for the 3,000 metre distance. Her time was 8:27.68, which was an astonishing time for the distance. Later she appeared in Stuttgart, where she won the 10,000 metre race in 30:49:30, in spite of the fact that was ill before she ran. Another 3,000 metre race saw her take the title in the Chinese National Games, where she also won the 10,000 metres.

For both she again broke the world records. The finale of the year was the World Cup Marathon Championships with another win. Junxia was given the Jesse Owens prize award  in 1994 for all of these outstanding feats. No other Asian runner has ever won it.

In 1994, Junxia ran at the Asian Games hosted in Hiroshima, where she won the 10,000 metre race by breaking the record with a time of 30:50:34. A year later, she had a fall out with her Ma Junren coach over money and trained under a new coach Mao Dezhen, who she stayed with until her retirement.

There were other issues with Ma Junren too, as the coach had said that a particular type of fungus had helped Junxia ‘s performance. This led to complaints that she was using illegal drugs to enhance her ability and people started to point the finger at Chinese teams, saying that they must be using the fungus too.

Tests were done after the 2000 Olympics (after Junxia  had retired), and were found to be using illegal drugs. As noted, Junxia left Junren and began to train with Dezhen, when she tried out for the Olympics and got through due to outstanding 5,000 and 10,000 metre times.

The Summer Olympics then came in 1996 where she won the gold medal for 1st place in the 5,000 metre race. She also ran the 10,000 metres and won silver. After the Olympic Games she retired at the age of 23 when she got married, as she had injuries and stopped training for some time. When she did not recover as quickly as she had liked, she decided not to return to running.

Junxia’s personal best times have all been impressive with 3:51.92 for the 1,500 metre distance, 8:06.11 for 3,000 metres, 14:51.87 5,000 metres and 29:31.78 for the 10,000 metres. Her personal best on the marathon is 2:24.07.

Career Highlights

  • 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games – Gold, Silver
  • 1993 World Championships – Gold

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