The 2013 National Games of the People’s Republic of China, or the “Chinese National Games,” rolled into their 4th day on Saturday in Liaoning, and the competition continued to be huge between the established stars and the breakouts relatively unknown to the rest of the globe.
Women’s 200 free – FINAL
In the first final of the night, the women’s 200 free, Shanxi’s Cao Yue added a 1:56.25 victory to her earlier win in the 500 free. This was a very “Pellegrini-esque” swim, having turned halfway in just 4th place, at the final wall in 3rd, and then putting up a very good 29.30 last split to roar home for the win.
Yue is not entirely a new face at this elite level, but has made an impressive transition from the open water, where she won the 5km race in 2012 at the Asian Open Water Championships.
Cao’s swim was nowhere near the Asian or Chinese Records, but it is the fastest by an Asian woman since 2009.
Not far behind her was Shen Duo from Jiangsu in 1:56.27, and Zhang Yuhan from the People’s Liberation Army in 1:56.36. With Yi Tang having all-but fallen off the map since winning a bronze medal in the 100 free at last year’s Olympics (and even then, really given up on this 200), that is your Chinese 800 free relay of the future, along with Pang Jiaying who was 4th in 1:57.14. Right now, it’s nowhere near the Americans, but it’s certainly medal-worthy globally.
Men’s 200 fly – FINAL
China’s Wu Peng is the truest veteran of Chinese Swimming, and he came back from the 2nd seed in the semi-finals to win this 200 fly in 1:55.19, which marks a 4th-straight victory in the event at the National Games (his first coming at 15 years old) and the final swim of his career. He would tell local Chinese media that this “gold medal is kind of a release” and that he would now drop the curtain on his swimming career.
A fitting end for a great Chinese swimmer, and one of the few men in history to have beaten an adult Michael Phelps in the 200 fly.
Chen Yin and Hao Yun from Hibei are now well situated to take over this mantle, after very good swims of 1:55.55 and 1:56.82, respectively, for the silver and bronze, but this race was all about Wu Peng.
Women’s 200 IM
Ye Shiwen needed no great comeback to win the women’s 200 IM on Saturday. She was 2nd to Chen Xinyi after the backstroke leg, but on a furious burst to the finish, she was able to hold of her competitor for a 2:09.28, with Chen taking 2nd in 2:09.55.
Ye’s time was solid, but Chen’s was the really shocking number. She now could set up for a really good time in her best event, the 100 free, on Monday.
A distant 3rd place medal went to Zhou Min of Shanghai in 2:12.19.
Men’s 800 Free Relay
Wu Peng wasn’t quite done after his 200 fly. He still had one more race to swim, where he teamed up with Lu Zhiwu, Wang Shun, and Sun Yang, an impressive quartet, to win the men’s 800 free relay in 7:12.79. That included a 1:47.24 anchor from Sun for his 4th gold medal of this meet; keep in mind that by the time Sun hit the water, he had a four second lead, and with at least still three races to go (including the most uncertain 100 free), he cruised to victory.
The runners-up from Henan actually gained on Sun on the last leg, with Li Yunqi splitting 1:46.75. Where most of the world has moved to a strategy of leading off their best swimmers in relays, China seems to have stuck to a more traditional division with top swimmers anchoring, and second-best leading off.
Shanghai was 3rd, with Jian Yuhui on the back end in 1:47.85.
- In a race where the National Record is sure to be crushed (it already was in a relay lead-off once this week), Ning Zetao, Lu Zhiwu, and Sun Yang coasted through this semi-final in times of 49.09, 49.14, and 49.34, respectively. Zetao seems to have the advantage at the moment, after his 47-low relay anchor earlier in the meet, but it seems possible, even probable, that all three men could break the National Record.
- In the women’s 200 fly, Jiao Liuyang took the top seed in 2:08.05, followed by Zhou Yilin of Heibei in 2:08.49 and Liu Zige, the World Record holder, in 2:08.80. Again, this was a race where there’s not much depth to make the top contenders nervous in semi-final races, so expect this to be a very different event in finals.
- Huang Chaosheng from Hunan took the top seed in the men’s 200 breast in 2:13.05, followed by Li Xiang in 2:13.30. Mao Feilian from Zhejiang, the powerhouses of this meet, sits 3rd going into semis in 2:13.44. Mao, though he’ll only be in lane 3 in the final, is still the anticipated favorite.
Zhejiang, with three more wins in four events on Saturday, continues to crush the competition. They’ve won 10 out of 16 events so far, though they only have a single medal that is not gold. Sunday is expected to perhaps be a slightly slower day for them, though if they were to outperform their semi-finals, they could easily pick up another 2-3 titles.
Meanwhile, Shanghai continues to rack up medals, now sitting with 9 total, but Shanxi still leads them in the gold medal column.