China's men swimmers amazing world from Asian Games pool

16:01, November 18, 2010      

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When China's young swimmer Sun Yang touched the "wall" of the Asian Games pool, the Chinese team beat his Japanese team in the men's 4x200 meter freestyle final to the advantage of over 3 seconds, the Natatorium of the Guangzhou Olympic Sports Center was burst into resounding, deafening cheers.

The 4x200m freestyle relay, first set up in 1954, has all along been the "patent" sporting event of the Japanese men's swimming team with 14 consecutive champions, and other teams could hardly be encroached upon or allowed to "meddle in." As for the Chinese men's team, it has worked very hard on the project over the last 36 years ever since partaking in the Asian Games in 1974 but could only earn seven runner-up honors.

During the swimming contest at the Guangzhou games, Chinese star swimmer Zhang Yang established the lead in the first 200m, and then Jiang Haiqi, Li Yunqi and Sun Yang kept the lead to win the relay in seven minutes and 7.68 seconds, and the Japanese team trailed the Chinese swimmers throughout the race, but failed to outplace then finally. So, Japan for the first time lost their champion for 56 years.

In the first day of swimming competition, Japan's men swimming team swept two men champions but the situation turned and reversed the next day, as Chinese stars Zhou Jiawei and Xie Zhi beat Japanese peers and won two golds and, on the third day, Chinese swimmers obtained another two golds, and Lu Zhiwu again beat the Japanese swimmer in men's 50m freestyle. On the fourth day, Zhou Jiawei again defeated the Japanese swimmer in the men's 50m butterfly stroke and clinched the gold by clocking 23.66 seconds and created a new Asia record for the year. Finally, the Chinese team composed of Shi Tengfei, Jiang Haiqi, Shi Runqiang and Lu Zhiwu beat the Japanese team and scored a gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay.

In early Asian Games, Japan won most of its medals in swimming but, after four days contest at the ongoing Guangzhou Asian Games, Chinese men's swimming team has earned six golds and Japanese men's team managed five golds and, plus the records of its women teams, China has collected 19 golds, whereas Japan harvested only five after four days.

At the Guangzhou Asia Games, all Chinese swimmers achieved top ranked marks in swimming events in their winning year as a team of promising young stars have emerged, and some of them were born in the 1990s. Sun Yang, for example, tried hard on the 22m freestyle final runner-up Zhang Lin in the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou. In 1500m freestyle race in the Gala Games in September, Sun swam for 14 minutes and 47 seconds, chalk up the original 2010 world record by over two seconds. He is currently aimed to win a 1500m freestyle medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Another example is the 23-year-old Xie Zhi, who beat the Japanese "Frog King" Kosuke Kitajima and his teammate Ryo Tateishi in the men's 50m breaststroke final, and he became the focus of media attention.

Chinese swimming team in the first three days reversed their 3:11 gap with the Japanese team in swimming at the 15th Doha Asian Games held in early December 2006. What Chinese swimmers have been harvesting are not merely the gold medals, but attainments to challenge the world's top team. So, it is no wonder that "Asahi Shimbun", "Sankei Shimbun" and other media in Japan are concerned about the downturn of the Japanese swimming team and the rise of its Chinese counterpart.

Athletics and swimming are two major international sporting events as well as yardsticks to tell a nation's dominant national sporting power. For a long time, China's women swimming team has been stronger and more powerful than the men team, or what we call that "the 'Yin' rises or 'Yang' declines." The Chinese women team was one of the strongest worldwide over a decade ago, whereas China's men team exerted itself in the past 10 years" to rush out of the Asia."

Indeed, the Asian Games is a rehearsal ahead of the Olympics, and it represents a "midterm exam" for both Chinese and Japanese "waterborne troops" as they both are accumulating strength for the London Olympic Games 2012. As a matter of fact, no Chinese man has ever won a gold medal in the history of Olympics, and this history could possibly terminate in the upcoming London 2010 Olympics.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD senior desk editor Zheng Hongshen


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