Controversy Erupting Over Chinese Swimming’s New Physical-Fitness Testing Which Determines Finalists

Wang Jianjiahe
Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Controversy Erupting Over Chinese Swimming’s New Physical-Fitness Testing Which Determines Finalists

Apparently, producing a world-class time is not enough for officials of Chinese Swimming. Through the first few days of the Chinese National Championships, several athletes have posted quick performances in the preliminary heats, but then were absent from the final for which they qualified. Why? Officials have implemented a system that calls for athletes to excel in physical-fitness testing, and if athletes do not meet specific levels, they are denied their spot in the final.

According to a report in the Sixth Tone, athletes took part in testing in 10 events prior to the start of the National Champs, with the results of those tests determining whether swimmers would advance beyond the preliminary heats if their times warranted qualification. Among the tests were pullups, bench press, squats and a 30-meter sprint. Already at Nationals, Wang Jianjiahe and Yu Hexin were denied spots in their finals. All Wang did was set an Asian record in the 1500 freestyle (15:45.59), while Yu set a Chinese record in the 50 freestyle (21.79).

Not surprising, the new rules are not sitting well with the athletes.

“It’s not like we’re overlooking the importance of physical strength,” Wang told media at Nationals. “I think deciding the top eight based on physical tests is somewhat deficient.”

The physical-fitness testing will be used at future competitions, and has also been adopted in other sports, such as track and field.

In preliminary action on Monday, Yan Zibei and Liu Ziang put together impressive efforts to lead their respective events. Yan delivered a time of 58.73 to top qualifying in the men’s 100 breaststroke while Liu clocked a mark of 24.20 to pace the way in the women’s 50 freestyle. Ye Shiwen also advanced to the final of the 400 individual medley, an event she won at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

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