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Great breakthrough for Chinese swimming in Olympic pool

By Tan Jingjing (Xinhua)

09:44, August 06, 2012

LONDON, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- The curtain was lowered for the eight-day swimming competitions at the London Olympics on Saturday. China has for the first time mounted to the second place on the medal tally with a glorious 10 medals overall behind the United States.

It has been a major breakthrough for Chinese swimmers in Olympic pool. The epic triumph for Sun Yang in last day's 1,500m freestyle final, in which he wiped more than three seconds off the previous world record of his own and edged over silver medalist with a huge eight seconds, marked an incredible ending for China's remarkable performance in London.

Sun and his teammate Ye Shiwen, both clinched double gold medals at the London Games, have unveiled a new chapter for China in the Olympic swimming history as China has become the first country with male and female double gold winners.

Two golds, one silver and one bronze of Sun in London have seen him one of the shining stars alongside Michael Phelps and Ye Shiwen, making up nearly half of the total 10 Olympic medals China bagged from the pool.

All of Sun's four Olympic medals are of historic significance for China.

His victory in opening day's 400m freestyle in which Sun defeated South Korea's defending champion Park Tae Hwan, his long-time biggest rival, made Sun the first Chinese male swimmer to claim an Olympic gold. The silver medal he bagged in the 200m freestyle contributes the first Olympic medal for China in short course swimming.

Sun took team China from fifth to third in his final leg to bring the country the first Olympic relay medal in men's 4X200 freestyle, which underlines progresses of overall strength of Chinese swimming.

His emphatic win in the final day's 1,500m freestyle, his signature event, marks the first time that Chinese male swimmer set a new world record to claim an Olmpic gold.

Sun has also become the country's most prolific Olympic medalist. His confident-boosting victory may have a significant impact on tens of thousands of Chinese swimming fans and encourage more companions to seek glory on world stage.

Ye Shiwen, another shining star in Olympic pool, stunned the world with double individual medley gold medals and two records - a world record and an Olympic record - in her Olympic debut.

The 16-year-old smashed the world record in the women's 400 individual medley by more than one second, all the more remarkable for she swam the last 50m in a faster time than U.S. 400m individual medley champion Ryan Lochte, swam his last 50m.

What was also striking about Ye's record swim of 4:28.43 seconds was that she managed it in a textile suit while the record she broke - Australian Stephanie Rice's 4:29.45 - was set in the age of polyester suits.

She also featured strongly in women's 200m individual medley as she smashed two Olympic records in the semifinal and final to launch a confidence boosting victory.

More Chinese swimmers joined the excellence of Sun and Ye in pool at London Games: China's world champion Jiao Liuyang shattered Olympic record to win women's 200m butterfly; Lu Ying bagged a silver in women's 100m butterfly; teenagers Li Xuanxu and Tang Yi pocketed two bronze medals in the 400m individual medley and 100m freestyle.

Besides the medalists, Chinese male swimmers proved their overall improvement with the fourth place of Hao Yun in 400m freestyle, the fourth of Zhang Fenglin in 200m backstroke and a final berth Chen Yin booked in 200m butterfly.

It has been 20 years ago in Barcelona Olympics, when China had a legendary harvest in pool with four gold medals and five silver. From then on, there were only three Olympic champion emerged - 100m freestyle champion Le Jingyi in 1996 Atlanta Games, 100m butterfly winner Luo Xuejuan in Athens and 200m butterfly champion Liu Zige at Beijing Games.

20 years on, Chinese swimmers rose again with major breakthrough at the London Olympics.

Team manager Xu Qi said the success of Chinese swimming in London was down to a state-scale sports system, a sound environment for training and competitions as well as increasing confidence for Chinese swimmers.

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