SHENYANG, China, September 8. THE women’s 200 fly proved to be the swiftest event of the evening as Jiao Liuyang and Liu Zige put on a show at the Chinese National Games. Meanwhile, a few Chinese national records took a tumble, while Sun Yang’s quest for seven gold medals ran into a brick wall in the 100 free.
The Chinese National Games are the ultimate event for swimmers in China, even eclipsing the Olympics when it comes to the level of prestige for an athlete in China with huge rewards on offer for not only the athletes, but also the provinces and teams in China.
Men’s 200 breast
Zhejiang’s Mao Feilian held off a hard-charging Li Xiang of Tianjin for the first title of the night with a Chinese national record in the distance breaststroke. Mao became the first man from China under 2:11, with Li also joining him for that honor as Mao clipped Li, 2:10.25 to 2:10.55, in the finale.
Mao went out hard with a 29.93, 1:03.36 set of splits at the 100-meter mark, but Li nearly closed the distance. Both swims eclipsed Mao’s Chinese record of 2:11.15 from the Chinese Nationals in April of this year in Zhengzhou. Yunnan’s Xie Zhi also nearly undercut the previous national record with a bronze-winning time of 2:11.25.
The stroke still has some need to develop in China, as both times still land outside of the top 10 in the world anchored by Ryo Tateishi’s 2:10.01 from Worlds in Barcelona, but tonight’s efforts went a long way towards closing the gap for China.
Women’s 200 fly
In an epic battle with Shanghai’s Liu Zige pushing the pace hard early on, Liberation Army’s Jiao Liuyang had just enough left in the tank to over-take the world-record holder in the distance fly down the final 50 meters.
Liu went out hard, splitting a 59.77 at the 100-meter mark and a 1:31.92 at the 150-meter mark, before Jiao came roaring home down the final leg with a 2:04.54 to 2:04.78 victory. That’s a big time win for Jiao as she shot to the top of the world rankings this year, ahead of Liu’s 2:04.59 from the World Championships in Barcelona. Jiao’s previous best had been a 2:05.87 from Chinese Nationals earlier this year.
The times are some of the top to be seen in textile suits, rivaling Jiao’s textile best of 2:04.06 from the 2012 London Olympics, while the sport may never see Liu’s techsuited world-record of 2:01.81 from 2009 broken.
Sun Mengyue of the Liberation Army won the battle for bronze, beating Hebei’s Zhou Yilin, 2:07.71 to 2:07.80. Both swims broke into the top 10 in the world, with Sun moving to seventh overall and Zhou taking ninth. That gives China a remarkable four out of the top 10 swimmers in the world this year.
Men’s 100 free
There definitely proved to be the potential for a Chinese national record for Ning Zetao in the men’s 400 free relay when he anchored his squad with a blistering 47-second final split, and he realized that potential this evening in a star-studded finale.
Ning sprinted to victory in the event with a 48.27, lowering the Chinese national record of 48.33 set by Lu Zhiwu on Zhejiang’s relay leadoff earlier this week. Ning nearly cracked the top 10 in the world as well, with Fabien Gilot currently standing 10th with a 48.21 from Worlds in Barcelona.
Lu, meanwhile, wound up with silver for Zhejiang with a 48.60 as he could not replicate his relay-fueled leadoff time to compete for the championships.
Olympic superstar Sun Yang clinched what will likely be his seventh medal of the meet with a bronze-winning time of 48.94. Sun had been vying for a seven gold medal haul with a slate comprised of the 100, 200, 400 and 1500 freestyle events as well as the three relays. He’s already collected four golds, and this gave him his fifth medal. No matter what, Sun’s range is sensational as he is one of just a handful of swimmers to have a sub-15:00 1500 freestyle along with a 48-second top time in the 100 free.
Women’s 800 free relay
Shanghai turned in the fifth-fastest swim in the world this year with a blistering time of 7:50.50.
Zhu Qianwei started things off with a 1:57.93, while Zhang Sishi produced a 1:58.17 for the second split. Tang Yi (1:57.06) and Pang Jiaying (1:57.34) then closed out the victory for Shanghai as the team wound up with a 7:50.50. Only four other teams have gone faster this year with USA (7:45.14), Australia (7:47.08), France (7:48.43) and China (7:49.79) all posting scorchers at the World Championships in Barcelona.
Remarkably, Zhejiang and Shandong put up the sixth and seventh best time of the year so far to round out the podium in what is easily the fastest non-Worlds finale of the year.
Zhejiang’s Shao Yiwen (1:57.45), Bi Yirong (1:58.15), Chen Junjie (1:58.35) and Ye Shiwen (1:57.52) completed a silver-winning time of 7:51.47, while Shandong’s Zhang Wengqing (1:58.87), Chen Qian (1:56.36), Xin Xin (1:57.85) and Song Wenyan (1:58.83) placed third in 7:51.91. Shandong’s relay, however, drew a disqualification due to an early relay exchange, leaving Liaoning with a 7:57.48 as the third-place squad.
Women’s 100 free
Shanghai’s Chen Xinyi picked up the top seed heading into the finale with a 54.28 during the first semifinal heat. She just needs to cut another half-a-second to break into the top 10 in the world currently anchored by Shannon Vreeland’s 53.83 from the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis earlier this summer.
Jiangsu’s Shen Duo raced into second with a 54.66 as the youngster continues to develop her career. Shen’s been improving throughout the past few years, some of which were under the mentorship of American coach Ron Turner. Turner, who is currently the head coach of the Blue Wave Swim Team in Florida, had served as a coach with Jiangsu in the past few years before head back to the States this year.
Shanghai’s Tang Yi (54.86) and Pang Jiaying (54.89) qualified third and fourth, while Guangdong’s Wang Shengnan rounded out the sub-55s with a fifth-place 54.97.
Men’s 200 back
After cruising through prelims this morning, Chinese record holder Zheng Fenglin turned it up a notch this evening with a 1:57.43 as the undisputed favorite heading into the finale. That effort put him about a second outside the top 10 in the world, currently bracketed by Peter Bernek with a 1:56.54 from Hungary.
Zheng’s time finished well ahead of the rest of the pack with Zhejiang’s Xu Jiayu qualifying second in 1:59.17. Xu, however, already is in the top 10 this year with a 1:56.42 to rank ninth overall in the world, and could give Zheng a bit of a run in the finale. No matter what, the finale should see a special time by the winner.
Liaoning’s Cheng Feiyi (2:00.09) and Zhejiang’s Li Guangyuan (2:00.19) snared the third and fourth seeds heading into the finale.
Women’s 200 breast
Shaanxi’s He Yun led the way in qualifying with a 2:27.20, while Shanxi’s Zhao Jin wound up second in 2:27.80. This is one of the few glaring holes for China, as neither swimmer is remotely close to the top times in the world with Canada’s Martha McCabe currently standing 10th with a 2:24.68 from Worlds in Barcelona.
While the finale should see some significant time drops, the primary question is whether this stroke can develop for China as a growing super power in the sport like how the country has begun to challenge for international gold medals throughout many of the other events.
Men’s 200 IM
Hunan’s Yang Zhixian checked in with a 2:00.89 to top the shorter distance medley event during some reserved semifinals. The heat should be turned up in the finale with national record holder Wang Shun of Zhejiang qualifying second in 2:01.09. Wang stands fourth in the world this year with a sizzling 1:56.86 from the World Championships in Barcelona, and should put up a much stronger effort when it counts tomorrow night.
Hebei’s Hao Yun (2:01.44) and Jiangxi’s Hu Yixuan (2:02.00) will bracket the top two seeds in the finale after qualifying third and fourth this evening.