SHUNDE, China, May 17. THE swimming world has been waiting for a Chinese athlete to produce a breakthrough performance with the Beijing Olympics a little more than a year away. That moment arrived Thursday when 13-year-old Li Xuanxu delivered an exceptional time in the 400-meter individual medley during the Chinese National Championships.
Racing in a morning-finals format, the setup that will be used for the Beijing Games, Li clocked in at 4:38.54 to finish ahead of Yu Xin (4:40.99) and Zhang Chen (4:42.01). The time would have secured the silver medal for Li at the World Championships in Melbourne. Certainly, the youngster has rocketed to medal-contender status for the Olympics. The time slashed nearly 10 seconds off her personal best of 4:48.25, posted last year. American Katie Hoff holds the world record at 4:32.89, the time she managed at the World Champs.
In the women's 200 backstroke, Zhao Jing took top honors with a time of 2:11.55. Meanwhile, Zhang Lin and Ouyang Kunpeng notched triumphs on the male side. Zhang placed first in the 200 freestyle in 1:48.45 while Ouyang negotiated the 200 backstroke in 2:00.42, a relatively slow time considering his past performances in the event. During the first day of competition, Zhou Jiawei won the 100 fly in 52.87 and Pang Jiaying won the women's 200 free in 2:00.31. Jiao Liuyang was victorious in the women's 100 fly, touching the wall in 59.48.