China’s Xie Zhenye is all smiles after winning the men’s 200m at Diamond League meet at London Stadium on July 21, 2019. Xie won with a time of 19.88 seconds, becoming the first Asia-born athlete to break the 20-second barrier over the distance. JOHN SIBLEY/ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS

HANGZHOU-After setting an Asian men’s 200-meter record in 2019, China’s Xie Zhenye remains hopeful of lowering the mark further before the year is out despite the disruption to the season caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last July, Xie became the first Chinese to break the 20-second barrier in the 200 by clocking 19.88 at the Diamond League London meet. In a fruitful 2019 season for the 26-year-old, Xie also became the first Chinese athlete to reach a men’s 200m final at the world championships, in Qatar.

Xie was looking to build and that momentum and dip below 19.80 seconds before the pandemic forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and a shutdown of global athletics.

“The general training cycle and specific plans all need adjustments. But that’s the same for everyone,” said Xie, who is currently training at the Zhejiang College of Sports in Hangzhou.

“Unlike before, this summer I could not work on my technique through competitions, but I’m instead focusing more on the basics and honing my skills.”

The isolation of closed-door training sessions amid the pandemic might be difficult for some athletes, but not for Xie, who appears to be adept at occupying himself during his downtime.

“I enjoy crafts after training. I once spent one or two hours trying to make a folded-paper rose by following an online video, and I sometimes build Lego sets.”

Xie also posts fitness videos, which he films and edits himself, on social media to encourage people to stay healthy.

After intensive training in his home province of Zhejiang, the Asian champion plans to kick off his 2020 campaign at the national championships in September. He hopes to lower his record there or in forthcoming competitions as international events gradually return.

Turning 27 on Saturday, Xie told reporters his main ambition has stayed the same throughout his career.

“My goal has always been to stand on the podium at an Olympic Games. Next year I’ll give it my all,” the 2010 Youth Olympic champion said.

Japan has a similar climate to China. After a year of dedication, I believe I can improve on what I have achieved last year, so I’m not too worried about the Tokyo Games.”

Xie has qualified for both the 100m and 200m events in Tokyo. He is the highest-ranked Asian athlete in the world in these events, at eighth (100) and sixth.

The 100m runner-up at the 2019 Diamond League Finals is not prioritizing one over the other.

“Training for the 100 can help improve my 200 performance and vice versa,” he said. “If I have a chance in both events, why not double the joy?”