On day 1 of the 2013 National Games of the People’s Republic of China, more commonly known as the Chinese National Games, at least one swimmer blasted his native star into the stratosphere.
Men’s 400 IM – FINAL
With lots of fame and large cash prizes on the line, the rise of the Asian IM’er continued on Tuesday, as Wang Shun took the first gold medal of the meet, swimming a 4:09.10 to crush his own National Record of 4:11.61 set in 2011.
That took the meet’s first gold for his native Zhejang province that is expected to dominate the swimming portion of this meet with names like Sun Yang and Shiwen Ye also in their lineup.
For Shun, that was easily (by four seconds) his best time of the year, showing the emphasis placed on this meet. Yang Zhixian took 2nd in 4:10.78, also under the old National Record. Zhixian swam very well on the first 300 meters, and actually amassed a two second led over the eventual winner Shun, but Shun crushed him on the freestyle split 56.7-1:00.4. Huang Chaosheng took 3rd in 4:11.99.
Men’s 400 free – FINAL
Zhejang kept up their pace with a second win in as many finals on Tuesday, with this one going to global superstar Sun Yang in the men’s 400 free.
Sun was out in 53.97 in this race; that’s faster than Paul Biedermann’s World Record pace, but slower than Sun usually goes out in this race. He said in pre-meet media statements that he’d made some adjustments after Worlds and really worked on his speed, but ultimately he was only a 3:43.68: still good enough for the win, but by no means was he close to his time at Worlds.
This was still a nice recovery, though, after a post-prelims celebration saw him slip and fall back into the pool.
The silver medal went to Hao Yun in 3:44.87: three seconds faster than he was at Worlds. He didn’t open quite as well as Sun did, but he did close almost as well. Bronze went to Li Yunqi in 3:48.17: he had a good first 250 meters, but fell well off of the pace after that. He’s more of a 200 freestyler, though, so at least he showed his speed is ready for that race.
Women’s 400 IM – FINAL
In response to what could only be termed a terrible swim at Worlds, where the World Record holder and defending Olympic Champion Ye Shiwen was only 7th in this 400 IM, she switched things into high-gear in Liaoning, posting a 4:31.59 for the victory and another Zhejiang gold medal.
Ye has done a lot of work on her backstroke this year, but in this race, it was the breaststroke that showed up biggest for her. She split 1:17.4, faster than she did in her World Record swim, and faster than anybody else in the field here. It was that, and not her freestyle, that was her lockdown leg in this race (though she still closed better than anybody else).
Second place went to Shanghai’s Zhou Min in 4:33.60, a lifetime best for her, and making her the 4th-best Chinese woman in history in the event. She couldn’t match Ye’s back-half, but was every bit as good for the first 200 meters. That was the same story for Li Xuanxu, who wound up 3rd in 4:34.89, as those three raced over seven seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Women’s 400 Free Relay – FINAL
In the lone relay final on the first night, with this meet following the Olympic order, the team from the sprint powerhouse of Shanghai swam a 3:36.55 for the win. That team of Chen Xinyi (54.03), Pang Jiaying (53.93), Zhang Sishi (54.60), and the country’s top sprinter Tang Yi (53.99) actually combined for a faster time, by almost three seconds, than the Chinese relay at Worlds that failed to final.
In fact, the top two relays, including Liaoning (3:36.55), beat China’s old season-best.
This was the first event of the meet not won by the Zhejiang province, and in fact they didn’t even finish in the top 8.
- In the women’s 100 fly semi-final, Shanghai teammates Liu Zige and Lu Ying, unsurprising training partners as two of China’s best butterfliers, took the top two seeds. Liu was a 57.79, and Lu was 57.98, both of which were either best times or almost best times. Heibei’s Zhou Yilin took the 3rd seed in 58.27. It took a 59.48 to final in this race, which is faster, in fact, than it took to final at the U.S. National Championships in July.
- In the men’s 100 breaststroke, an event in which the Chinese men have never been very good (they’ve never even had a swimmer sniff the minute barrier), Gu Biaorong is approaching the National Record with a 1:01.37 in the semi-finals. The winner of the other heat was Wang Shuai in 1:01.60, with Li Xiayan sitting 3rd in 1:01.64. Among them, only Wang is really on the young end of the spectrum at 21-years old; the other two swimmers are both in their mid-20′s.
In a meet that is very much team-and-medal-table oriented, Zhejiang jumped out to an early lead with three golds, and four medals in four events so far.