SHENYANG, China, September 10. ANOTHER Asian record fell during the penultimate night of swimming at the Chinese National Games. Teenager Xin Xin powered to the Asian and Chinese record in the women’s 800-meter freestyle with just one more night to go in the prestigious competition.
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 back
World champion and Olympic bronze medalist Zhao Jing brought home the gold for Hubei in the distance dorsal with a 2:07.94 in the finale. While the time is more than a second off her Asian record of 2:06.46 from the 2010 Asian Games, it was more than enough to move Zhao into sixth in the world rankings this year as the top swimmer from China this year.
Liao Yali had previously been the best out of China with a 2:08.70 from earlier in the week, but Zhao’s top-end speed blasted right by that time to stand just behind Elizabeth Beisel (2:07.64) for sixth in the world.
Zhao has been one of China’s better backstrokers for half-a-decade now, having burst onto the international scene with gold in the 50 back and the 400 medley relay at the 2009 World Championships in Rome. She also won a world title in the 100 back in 2011, and topped the 50 back this summer at Worlds in Barcelona.
Liao, meanwhile, bettered her best with a 2:08.37 for silver to leapfrog Daria Ustinova (2:08.39) for ninth in the world rankings for Hunan. IM stalwart Ye Shiwen managed her third individual medal after an IM sweep as Ye grabbed bronze with a 2:09.62.
Men’s 100 fly
Guangdong’s Zhou Jiawei pushed the pace early, turning first at 24.11 at the 50 before holding off the hard-charging field with a winning time of 51.88. The time came up short of the top 10 in the world, currently anchored by Eugene Godsoe with a 51.66 from the U.S. Nationals this summer, but is still the best time out of China this year.
Shi Feng nearly tracked down Zhou down the stretch as he managed a 51.99 to also clear 52 seconds for Shanghai to win silver. Meanwhile, Wu Peng’s career is quickly coming to a close. After winning the 200 fly earlier this week, Wu took home bronze this evening in the shorter distance swim with a third-place time of 52.10.
Wu stated at the World Championships in Barcelona that he planned on retiring after this meet, and he likely has just medley relay duty left as he pushes for glory for his squad from Zhejiang.
Before the likes of Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen took the world by storm, Wu had carried the banner for Chinese swimming having made the 2004 Athens Olympics at 17 and continuing on at the world-class level for the next decade, including being one of the few men to be able to have claimed head-to-head wins against the Greatest of All Time Michael Phelps in the 200 fly. Wu actually was the man to end Phelps’ nearly nine-year streak of winning in the event with his head-to-head victories in the 2012 USA Swimming Grand Prix.
Women’s 800 free
Shandong’s Xin Xin broke into the top five in the world in the distance freestyle event with an 8:19.43 for the win, with that time also now standing as the new Asian record in the event. Coming into tonight, Chen Qian had owned the continental standard with an 8:20.36 from the techsuited 2009 edition of this meet. Tonight, however, Xin Xin powered right past that mark.
The swim vaulted Xin to fifth overall in the world with only Katie Ledecky (8:13.86), Lotte Friis (8:16.32), Lauren Boyle (8:18.58) and Jazmin Carlin (8:18.58) being faster as it proved obvious tonight that the Chinese distance freestylers kept their focus on this meet instead of the World Championships in Barcelona. Xin is a precocious youngster having made the 2012 London Olympics as just a 15 year old last year, and there is no telling how much more she has in her tank going forward in this event.
Zhang Yuhan of the Liberation Army checked in with a silver-winning time of 8:21.22 to move to seventh in the world rankings behind Boglarka Kapas’ 8:21.21 from Worlds. Meanwhile, Zhejiang’s Bi Yirong rounded out the podium with a third-place time of 8:24.35 for 10th in the world rankings behind Chloe Sutton’s 8:23.24 from U.S. Nationals. That gives China a stunning three of the top 10 swimmers in the world this year in what proved to be a sizzling finale in Shenyang tonight.
Men’s 50 free
After he popped a scorching 21.91 during prelims to set the Asian record in the men’s splash-and-dash, Ning Zetao of the Liberation Army proceeded to demonstrate his consistency in the stroke as he broke 22 seconds in all three stages of the event. Tonight, Ning just missed his record but still stood tall on top of the podium with a winning effort of 21.96 in the sizzling finale of the 50 free.
This week has been a revelation for Chinese sprinting with Ning powering to Asian records in both the 50 and the 100 freestyle events. Not bad for a swimmer who tells the story of being called the “Little Gal” by his teammates because he gets beat by girls in practice and continues to need work on finding a better kick. Typically, sprinters tend to be a bit more on the side of bravado. Ning, however, has a refreshing humble nature about himself during his interviews with the Chinese media.
Silver went to a pair of swimmers as Zhejiang’s Lu Zhiwu and Shanghai’s Shi Yang produced a tie for second-place. The duo put up matching times of 22.30 in the finale.
Women’s 50 free
China looks like it could break into the top 10 in the world rankings in the women’s splash-and-dash after this evening’s semifinal. A trio of swimmers all broke 25 seconds with Shanghai’s Chen Xinyi (24.87) and Tang Yi (24.94) leading the way with a 1-2 effort. Yang Li of the Liberation Army also beat 25 seconds in semis with a 24.95.
That trio will be gunning for Le Jingyi’s Asian and Chinese record of 24.51 from way back at the 1994 World Championship in Rome. That’s a history-filled time for the Asians and particularly the Chinese. Le was a member of the controversial Chinese women’s teams in the 90s that were nailed for doping. Le, however, never tested positive herself. Le finished her career with an Olympic gold medal in the 100 free in 1996, three silvers from Olympic competition and four world titles from the 1994 Rome championships.