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China on a golden pond

By Sun Xiaochen  (China Daily)

11:18, December 29, 2012

China's Sun Yang reacts after he won gold in the men's 1500m freestyle final in world record time during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre, on Aug 4, 2012.(Photo/ Xinhua)

Superstars Sun and Ye lead a fresh wave of swimming stars, writes Sun Xiaochen

It's always tough to pick the best sportsman and sportswoman in an Olympics year with so many golden performances. However, this year's vote might be easier for the selection panel as Chinese swimmers made history-making breakthroughs at the London Olympics, where they bagged 10 medals (five gold) to finish second on the table while also showing the world they are power to be reckoned with.

Delivering its best haul since its Olympic debut in 1984, the Chinese swimming squad drew the biggest spotlight in the nation's 38-gold London delegation and saw its crown jewels, Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen, nominated for multiple year-end awards, including the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards (Ye for Breakthrough of the Year).

In a country where male success in mainstream events is rare, Sun's gold medals in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle events were inspirational.

Shattering his own world record by more than three seconds in the 1,500 free, Sun moved on to steer the men's team to a bronze in the 4x200m free, an achievement that almost equaled his unexpected silver in the 200m.

Sun's performances didn't escape the attention of swimming legends like Michael Phelps, who grabbed four more gold in London to bring his record count to 18.

"One of the most impressive (Sun efforts) was in the men's 1,500m free. He's so talented," said Phelps, who retired after the Games. "His stroke is perfect. His catch and kick, everything about his stroke is flawless. I think (coach Denis Cotterell) could still help him improve in the future."

Besides Sun, other male swimmers also showed stark improvement with Hao Yun finishing fourth in 400m free, Zhang Fenglin coming in fourth in the 200m backstroke and Chen Yin reaching the final in the 200m butterfly.

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