Bai Xue's surprise victory in the women's marathon in Berlin boosted China's medal tally to one gold, one silver and two bronzes in a sport where they picked up just two bronzes at the Beijing Olympics.
It was China's best haul since controversial coach Ma Junren's band of women's distance runners burst on to the athletics scene in 1993, and was achieved without injured former world and Olympic high hurdles champion Liu Xiang.
"The Chinese team achieved good results due to their fighting spirit and confidence and some of the athletes performed beyond their real level," Du, director of China's Athletics Administrative Centre, told the China Daily.
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"We can't say that Chinese athletes have made great progress. We still have to work hard."
Although China topped the medals table with 51 golds at last August's Olympics, sports officials are well aware they need to pick up a bigger share of the host of medals in athletics and swimming if they are to remain top of the pile.
The '119 project', named for the number of targeted events where China was weak, was instituted before Beijing but had limited results in athletics, which deputy sports minister Cui Dalin this month described as "still at a low level".
Wang Hao's silver in the 20km walk was not much of a surprise given he just missed out on a medal in Beijing last year and Du said race walking would be targeted for the London Olympics.
"Wang's silver is the first medal for China's men in a top-level competition and has boosted our confidence but we are still not powerful enough to maintain such an advantage," said Du.
"However, the results in Berlin were a good start for our preparations for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Race walking will be a definite medal target for the Chinese Olympic delegation."
Wang has benefited from working with Italian coach Sandro Damilano this year and Du said more foreigners would be brought in to help train Chinese athletes.
"We will pay more attention to elite international coaches and combine their experience with our own situation," Du added.
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