Three Chinese are scheduled to become the first runners from their country to compete in a marathon in the United States when they run May 1 at Long Beach, organizers said Tuesday.
They are two men, Wu Zhihan and Shan Changming, and a woman, Li Ziuxia, 21, whose best time of 2:32:42 in the 1987 National Games of China is 12 minutes 17 seconds faster than Rosario Avalos' women's course record at Long Beach.
Wu ran his best time of 2:13:49--27 seconds slower than Ric Sayre's Long Beach record--in the '86 Beijing International Marathon.
"Wu was the runner we wanted," said Vic McCarty, who initiated the arrangements through the Chinese Athletic Assn. and the China Sports Service Company. "We're pleased they decided to send the other two as well."
The three will be seeded into the new Pacific Rim division of the event, along with runners from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the Philippines.
Sayre, the Ashland, Ore., runner who has finished first twice and second twice in the first six Long Beach marathons, will not compete because of the proximity to the U.S. Olympic men's marathon trial on April 24 in New Jersey.
The U.S. women's trial is May 1 in Pittsburgh, but organizers expect to top their record of 3,700 entries set last year. The field will be limited to 4,500.
McCarty was a member of a five-man good will delegation that visited Long Beach's sister city of Quingdao last year. Later, he met with Chinese athletic officials in Beijing.
Joe Carlson, executive director of the event, said, "We didn't look at it as a PR coup at first. It was later than we realized they'd never competed in the U.S., not even in the (1984) Olympics."