SHENYANG, China, September 6. SUN Yang continued his powerful meet with a third gold medal, this time by way of an Asian record in the 200-meter freestyle at the Chinese National Games.
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 free
Sun Yang dominated the men’s 200 freestyle finale for his third gold medal of the meet as he raced to a Chinese national record in the process
Sun blasted a time of 1:44.47 split 24.81, 51.20, 1:17.93, to surpass his national record of 1:44.93 set at the 2012 London Olympics. The swim kept him in line for a seven gold medal performance as he is vying for victory in the 100, 200, 400 and 1500 freestyles as well as three relays this week. The time leapfrogged Danila Izotov (1:44.87) for second in the world rankings this year behind only Yannick Agnel’s scorching 1:44.20 from Worlds in Barcelona. Additionally, Sun’s performance also downed Tae Hwan Park’s Asian record of 1:44.80 from the 2010 Asian Games.
His victories are paying huge dividends for his Zhejiang squad as not only do swimmers earn significant prizes from wins, but also teams and provinces pick up incentives for wins at this meet.
Hebei’s Hao Yun finished a distant second in 1:46.85, finishing about half-a-second outside of the top 10 in the world. Meanwhile, Henan’s Li Yunqi chipped in a 1:48.30 for third after pushing the pace early with a 25.39 at the 10 and a 52.34 at the 100. He faded a bit as Hao powered past.
Women’s 100 back
It wasn’t her top time of the year, but Fu Yuanhui of Zhejiang had enough in the tank to hold off record holder Zhao Jing, 59.64 to 59.92, in the finale this evening.
Fu’s time fell short of her 59.56 from Chinese Nationals earlier this year, which puts her sixth in the world rankings. But, it was enough to take home the second title in a row for Zhejiang. Zhao, meanwhile, finished just outside of the top 10 with her performance for Hubei, while Liao Yali clinched bronze for Hunan in 1:00.10.
Fu finished eighth in the 100 back at the 2012 London Olympics, but has been making a push towards the top of the stroke the past year as evidenced by her silver medal in the 50-meter event at the World Championships in Barcelona.
Zhao is a two-time Olympic veteran for China, having competed at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She won bronze in the 400 medley relay in 2008, and has four world titles since first capturing gold in the 50 back and 400 medley relay at the 2009 Rome Worlds. She also won the 50 back this summer in Barcelona, and topped this 100 back event in Shanghai in 2011.
Men’s 100 back
Zhejiang scored a third gold medal tonight as Xu Jiayu powered past Liaoning’s Cheng Feiyi for the win in the dorsal event.
London Olympian Xu, out in 26.19, threw down the final 50 meters to turn in a blazing time of 53.43. That swim finished just off Cheng’s Chinese record of 53.22 from the 2012 London Olympics, and moved Xu to 10th overall in the world rankings this year.
Cheng, meanwhile, settled for silver with a 53.91 after taking the swim out fast along with bronze-medalist Sun Xiaolei at 25.66 and 25.53, respectively. Sun picked up bronze for Shanghai with a 54.11 as he could not keep up his blistering early pace in the event.
With Fu Yuanhui and Xu Jiayu taking down Zhao Jing and Cheng Feiyi in successive backstroke events, China could be seeing a bit of a changing of the guard in the event as Zhao and Cheng have been the more proven commodities in the past few years.
Women’s 100 breast
Zhao Jin finally stopped the Zhejiang juggernaut with a win in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. With three gold medals already going to the Zhejian squad, Zhao stepped up for Shanxi with a 1:07.28 to win the day in the event.
Zhao, not to be confused with backstroke counterpart Zhao Jing, is a 2012 London Olympian and pushed the pace early with a 31.22 at the 50. She then had more than enough in the tank to hold off Liaoning’s Liu Xiaoyu, who turned in a silver-winning time of 1:07.66.
Shanghai’s Sun Ye, the veteran of the group with a bronze medal by way of the 400 medley relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, earned bronze tonight as well in 1:07.80. Jiangsu’s Shi Jinglin rounded out the sub 1:08s with a fourth-place effort of 1:07.93.
This is one of the few events China hasn’t made serious strides on compared to the rest of the world. Zhao’s winning time tonight missed the top 10 in the world with USA’s Micah Lawrence anchoring the rankings with a 1:07.27 from U.S. Nationals this summer.
Women’s 200 free
The women in the 200-meter freestyle semifinal heats were just warming up as the first event of the evening. Jiangsu’s Shen Duo topped the field with a 1:57.05 out of semifinal two.
That performance put her just outside the top 10 in the world rankings, and in position to score huge favor for Jiangsu with a potential victory in the finale. That’s a significant drop for the 16-year-old swimmer, who finished 26th at the World Championships this summer in 2:00.82.
Shanghai’s Zhu Qianwei (1:57.71), Liberation Army’s Zhang Yuhan (1:57.85) and Shanghai’s Tang Yi (1:57.98) also broke 1:58 to round out the top four swimmers heading into the finale.
Men’s 200 fly
Hebei’s Hao Yun produced the only sub-1:57 time of the semifinal heats with a 1:56.97 to lead the way into the finale. That’s a full second outside of the top 10 in the world, but Hao has plenty of time during the final to turn up the heat.
Hao has some versatility as a swimmer, having competed in the 400 free at the 2012 London Olympics. He won bronze as part of the 800 free relay that year as well, while also helping China to bronze this summer in Barcelona in the same relay.
Wu Peng, representing Zhejiang in what is likely he final meet before retiring, qualified second in 1:57.27. Wu is one of the top swimmers in Chinese history, having first made serious noise in the sport with a final in this event at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He has been a fixture on the Chinese national team ever since, and became the first person to beat Michael Phelps in the 200 fly in nearly nine years with a win against the Superman of the sport on the USA Swimming Grand Prix circuit.
Shi Feng of Shanghai (1:57.71) and Wang Pudong (1:57.99) of the Liberation Army also broke 1:58 for the top two times in qualifying.
Women’s 200 IM
Zhejiang’s Ye Shiwen, the Asian record holder with a textile best 2:07.57 to her credit from the 2012 London Games, cruised again with an easy-speed effort in semis as no one will challenge her in the finale.
Ye clocked a 2:12.73 as she shut it down in the freestyle leg. She led the rest of the semifinal field by two seconds at the 150-meter mark with a 1:40.65 before cruising home for the top time out of semis. Ye, who had a subpar effort at the World Championships in Barcelona, looks to have focused her efforts on this event instead of Worlds. The finale should be interesting to watch to see if Ye uncorks another ridiculous time or not.
Shanghai’s Zhou Min (2:13.91) and Zhang Sishi (2:14.66) finished second and third in semis, while Liberation Army’s Li Jiaxing also broke 2:15 with a fourth-seeded 2:14.99.