Chinese Swimmers Set For Tokyo 2020 Trial Run Over 9 Days With Morning Finals

Wang Jianjiahe
Wang Jianjiahe, taking on all free events from 200 to 1500m - Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Chinese Swimmers (Tokyo 2020 Trial Run)

Chinese Championships get underway in Anshan City on Wednesday. The event will be a test run for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games schedule, with evening prelims and morning finals, the whole event over nine, not eight, days.

Many swimmers will swim events they would not normally take on, while few, in any, will be taking on the championships as a trial of top speed. Backstroke world champion Xu Jiayu has opted to depart from his traditional campaign by taking on the 400m freestyle (3:52.59) as well as the 200m backstroke. He will steer clear of the 100m in which he claimed the global crown at Gwangju 2019 last month.

National medley champion Ye Shiwen and Wang Shun will practice the parts of their sums. Ye will take on the 200m freestyle (with relay action in mind) and 200m breaststroke as well as the 400m medley, while Wang is  entered in the 200m breaststroke, 100m butterfly at 400m medley.

Among those sticking with the events they are known for in international waters are Yan Zibei at the helm of pace in the 100 and 200m breaststroke. Li Zhuhao will race the 100m butterfly (and the 50m free). Fu Yuanhui is set for the 100m backstroke and Zhang Yufei is entered in the 100 and 200m butterfly as well as the 200m freestyle.

Two of the biggest programs will be undertaken by distance freestyle rivals Li Bingjie (200, 400, 800m free as well as 200m butterfly and 400IM) and Wang Jianjiahe, who goes in the 200, 400, 800 and 1500m free.

Xu Jiayu, centre, on traditional military camp with teammates last month. Photo Courtesy: Weibo

Xu Jiayu, centre, on traditional military camp with teammates last month. Photo Courtesy: Weibo

In the absence of Sun Yang, 22-year-old Ji Xinjie, the man who has consistently come closest to the controversial star of Chinese swimming in his best events, leads the pace in the 200, 400, 800 and 1500m free.  Ji clocked 1:45.88 (semi) 3:45.64 (7th) and 15:15.41 in the heats of the 1500m in Gwangju. Meanwhile, Xu will be a relative newcomer in the realm of the fastest 400 freestylers in China.

Places for the women’s 4x200m free relays are hard to come by in China. Among those vying for a berth are Yang Junxuan. She will also take on Zhu Menghui, who as a young teenager returned a positive doping test and served a suspension, in the 100m free. Zhu will also make a rare appearance in the 100m backstroke.

No Sun Yang

Most of China’s top names will be in action, barring Sun Yang. The Olympic 200m freestyle champion also missed a national-team military training camp of late and was said by the Chinese Swimming Association to be “recuperating” from a busy time.

Sun is due to attend a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) next month after a challenge from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to a FINA Doping Panel decision to issue the swimmer with a severe caution but let him go penalty free after a contested visit by out-of-competition testers ended in acrimony.

The Water Cube – Photo Courtesy: Li Yong

Morning Finals Not New To China

Morning finals will serve as a test of abilities to turn the day on its head and race swiftest before lunch. China has seen this before. It was in Beijing at the Water Cube back in 2008 that we witnessed the Games swimming program turned on its head by the domestic broadcast schedule of Olympic rights holder NBC.

Next year, Japan will join the club of Olympic hosts happy to broadcast swimming at times that mean many home viewers will not or cannot watch the swimming on TV.