SHENYANG, China, September 7. SUN Yang kept steamrolling his competition en route to his fourth gold medal of the week at the Chinese National Games. Meanwhile, one of the most well-respected swimmers in Chinese history, Wu Peng, doubled up in what is likely to be his final meet.
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.
Women’s 200 free
Shanxi’s Cao Yue clipped Jiangsu’s Shen Duo, 1:56.25 to 1:56.27, for her second individual gold medal of the meet. Meanwhile, Liberation Army’s Zhang Yuhan collected a close bronze with a 1:56.36 in one of the best finishes of the meet thus far.
Cao, who surprised the international swimming community on night two with a 4:03.11 to overtake Zhang and capture the women’s 400 free title on night two, continued to have a strong meet. Cao, however, is an 18-year-old swimmer who is typical of the Chinese National Games where someone pops up with huge times but doesn’t always translate that success internationally. Only time will tell once Cao moves outside of China into some bigger events what her true potential is.
Cao’s time vaulted her to sixth in the world behind Melanie Costa Schmid’s 1:56.19 from Worlds in Barcelona. Meanwhile, Shen now stands seventh in the world with Zhang clipping Sarah Sjostrom’s 1:56.38 for eighth in the world giving China the most top 10 swimmers out of any country thus far.
Similar to the startling progressions for the female swimmers in the 400 free, the 200 free feature similar breakthroughs. Cao’s previous best had been in the 1:59 range, while Shen (1:58) and Zhang (2:00) also smashed their old top times.
Men’s 200 fly
Zhejiang’s Wu Peng, swimming in what is likely to be his final meet, overtook Hebei’s Chen Yin down the stretch for victory in the distance butterfly event.
Wu, trailing at the 150-meter mark 1:25.24 to 1:25.67, powered home in 1:55.19, while Chen settled for silver in 1:55.55.
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.
Wu’s time tonight just missed his third-ranked season best of 1:55.09 from Worlds. Only Chad Le Clos (1:54.32) and Pawel Korzeniowski (1:55.01) have been faster this year. Chen, meanwhile, came up short of his sixth-ranked time of 1:55.47 from Worlds in what is a bit of a turn from the rest of the meet where people have been clocking staggering bests here in Shenyang compared to Barcelona.
Chen’s Hebei training partner Hao Yun wrapped up the podium with a third-place time of 1:56.82. That clipped just a bit off his semifinal time of 1:56.97 that led the way, but was not enough to challenge for a title this evening. Zhejiang’s Wang Shun, who took down the 400 IM Chinese record on night one, wound up fourth in 1:56.84.
Women’s 200 IM
It wasn’t the 2:09.08 she clocked at the Chinese Nationals earlier this year that ranks her third in the world, but Zhejiang’s Ye Shiwen had enough in the tank to power to her second IM title of the meet.
Ye cruised in with a 2:09.28 for the victory as she continued to have a strong meet this week in Shenyang after a disappointing outing at the World Championships in Barcelona earlier this summer. Meanwhile, Shanghai’s Chen Xinyi raced to silver in 2:09.55 to vault to fifth in the world behind Mireia Belmonte’s 2:09.45. That makes China the only country with two swimmers in the top five in one of its better events. Chen is another youngster at just 15 years of age this year, but she’s been seen internationally since breaking on the scene as a 13 year old at the Summer Series hosted by Dennis Cotterell.
There was a huge dropoff in the bronze position, however, with Shanghai’s Zhou Min beating Shandong’s Zhang Wenqing to the wall, 2:12.19 to 2:12.62, for the third position in the finale.
Men’s 800 free relay
Sun Yang powered to his fourth gold medal of the meet thus far as Zhejiang crushed the men’s distance freestyle relay this evening to close out the night.
Zhejiang’s Lu Zhiwu (1:47.67), Wang Shun (1:48.63), Wu Peng (1:49.25) and Sun (1:47.24) smashed their way to a 7:12.79 in the finale. That’s the ninth fastest time in the event this year, behind a 7:12.00 from Great Britain in Barcelona and ahead of Australia’s 7:13.52 also at Worlds.
Sun is still on pace to put together an epic seven gold medal haul this week, while Zhejiang’s addition of Wu proved to be classy to give the veteran a second gold tonight in what is likely to be his last swimming competition.
Henan’s Li Yusen (1:49.02), Li Yongwei (1:49.13), Song Jiaming (1:51.43) and Li Yunqi (1:46.75) picked up second-place honors in 7:16.33 in a close race with Shanghai. Shanghai’s Zhang Jie (1:49.61), Sun Yunchao (1:50.27), Qiu Yingwah (1:48.80) and Jiang Yuhui (1:47.85) finished third in 7:16.53.
Men’s 100 free
Following some incredible efforts during the men’s 400 free relay, the world definitely had their eyes peeled to see what China could produce in the individual 100 freestyle tonight, and the swimmers did not disappoint.
Ning Zetao, who clocked a speedy 47.24 anchor leg for the Liberation Army, led the way with a 49.09 to kick off this evening’s festivities. Lu Zhiwu of Zhejiang, meanwhile, clocked a 49.14 to qualify second into the finale. Lu set the Chinese national record in the event on the second night of swimming with a 48.33 relay leadoff for his squad, and is looking to replicate that type of speed to hold off Ning.
Zhejiang’s Sun Yang raced to the third seed in 49.34. This is the one event that could derail his attempt at a seven-gold medal spree this week. He’s vying for gold in the 100, 200, 400 and 1500 freestyles individually as well as in all three relays. He’s already picked up a trio of golds thus far. Shiteng Fei rounded out the top four swimmers in the semifinals with a 49.63 while representing Beijing.
Women’s 200 fly
In one of China’s top events in the past decade, the best of the best put up some reserved times just to make it through the semifinal heats, likely saving up the big fireworks for the finale tomorrow night.
Liberation Army’s Jiao Liuyang collected the top time in 2:08.05, well off her fourth-ranked 2:05.87 from Chinese Nationals earlier this year. Meanwhile, Hebei’s Zhou Yilin checked in with a second-seeded time of 2:08.49 while pushing Jiao the entire way in the first of two semifinal heats. Shanghai’s Liu Zige snared the third seed in 2:08.80. She already has the top time in the world this year with a blazing 2:04.59 from the World Championships in Barcelona.
While the bulk of the week has seen some seriously swift times in semifinals as swimmers jockeyed for position to make the finale the top three in the women’s butterfly are seasoned enough to be able to be more strategic about their energy output. The finale should see some special times.
Men’s 200 breast
In one of the weaker events in the Chinese books, Hunan’s Huang Chaosheng checked in with a 2:13.04 to cruise through the semifinal heats. He will likely be gunning for Mao Feilian’s Chinese record of 2:11.15 from the Chinese Nationals in April earlier this year.
Tianjin’s Li Xiang qualified for finals with a 2:13.30, while Mao checked in with a 2:13.44 for Zhejiang this evening. The times are all well outside of the Worlds top 10, currently anchored by Ryo Tateishi’s 2:10.01 from Barcelona earlier this summer. The top swimmers are going to need some serious time drops tomorrow night to make any significant noise internationally with their swims.