With the addition of three new events to the Tokyo Olympic lineup in 2020, distance swimmers all around the world have begun to take notice and start preparation for an additional event for the Games in three years. The men’s 800, the women’s 1500, and the mixed medley relay will be contested at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the first time ever.
Three-time defending 800 free world champion Sun Yang of China told local newspaper Xinhua that he was “hungry” for the 800 gold medal in Tokyo. “Opportunity is equal to every athlete. Though I am the three-time 800m world champion, all the glory belonged to the past. I am always setting my eyes to the future, for the worlds to be held next month in Budapest, and for Tokyo Olympic Games. Every athlete has the chance to win the event,” Sun said.
Sun has won the last three World titles in the 800 and will swim that event, along with the 200, 400 and 1500 this summer at the World’s in Budapest. The 25-year-old Chinese swimmer will be 28 in Tokyo and has won five individual Olympic medals already. Sun won the 400 and 1500 in London in 2012 and won the 200 in Rio 2016, along with a silver in the 400. Sun is already the only male swimmer to win gold medals in the 200, 400 and 1500 free events in the Olympics and he could potentially become the first to ever win the 800 at the inaugural race in Tokyo in three years.
“For me, my goal is upgraded that I am for sure hungry for the 800m gold medal in Tokyo. It is a wonderful feeling to establish the new record for China swimming. I will try my best to work hard and repeat that wonderful feeling in 2020,” Sun told Xinhua.
Sun has not been at his best in the 1500 since winning the world title in 2013 and setting the world record in 2012. He failed to report for the final in 2015 and finished 16th in 2016 after falling off pace late in the race, where Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri won the gold in both of those races. The 800 may be the perfect distance for the Chinese swimmer however, since he has won three straight world titles in the event dating back to 2011.
It is too early for 2020 predictions, but the 800 in Budapest this summer at the World Championships could potentially be a match race between Sun, Australian Mack Horton, and the Italian duo of Paltrinieri and Gabriele Detti. Sun is ranked first in the world in the 200 and 400 free events, and is third in the 800 behind the Italians.
Read the report from Xinhua here.