A Chinese swimming coach dismissed allegations of doping after unknown national swimmers Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang made a surprising one-two finish in the women's 200m butterfly yesterday.
"Look at how many times our swimmers have been tested, I assure you that this is a clean team," Chinese coach Pan Jiazhang said. "Why do they accuse us every time we are doing well?" he asked. "Why don't they look at those times when we are not good?"
Chinese swimmers have had a difficult time since the 2004 Athens Games, where women's breaststroker Luo Xuejuan won China's only gold.
As the rest of world progressed at amazing speeds over the next four years, Chinese swimmers fell far behind.
When the last Chinese swimmer was knocked out of the world record books a few years ago, China's swimming medal hopes in Beijing seemed dead in the water.
Chinese swimmers could not win a single gold medal at the last two World Championships, as media around the world questioned their sluggish performances.
But the Chinese coach said it was just a strategy to pave the way for success in Beijing.
"We put our focus only on the Olympics," Pan said. "We've been improving fast and consistently in the last few years and I am very surprised by the achievements we've made."
Chinese coaches have been careful not to talk about medal hopeful events so their swimmers would not be distracted by expectations.
It's clear now which events the coaches had in mind.
"Yes, we regarded the women's 200m butterfly as our gold-favorite event. Our swimmers have reached a very high level during training and we did expect some good results from Liu and Jiao."
The 17-year-old Jiao proved her ability with a fourth-place finish at the 2007 World Championships.
"We invited many foreign coaches to do lectures in China and sent our athletes to train overseas. We are moving in the right direction."
So far, China has won five medals at the Water Cube - a gold, three silvers and one bronze - its best showing since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But Pan says the team has not reached its full potential.
"We did not improve that much. Others think we improved so much just because we were so bad in the past few years.
"But I am glad that most Chinese swimmers are able to beat their best."
Both Liu and Jiao knocked more than two seconds off their personal best times. Pan attributed such a great performance to the right suit, right time and right place.
"First, I think the swimming suits help," Pan said, referring to the Speedo LZR Racer, which is believed to be behind many of the world-record-breaking performances over the past two years.
"Second, we are competing at home and our swimmers feel very comfortable. And also, just check out the crowd. They definitely help the swimmers a lot."
The Chinese duo agreed.
"I felt very powerful while I was cheered on by the spectators," Jiao said. "I was expecting a medal coming into the final."
Source: China Daily