Day 3 at the 2012 Chinese Olympic Swimming Trials had some fantastic, mind-blowing swims, but before diving into those, let’s wrap-up a big topic of discussion from Tuesday: the failing to make the Olympic Team by Lin Zhang in the 400 free – he who is the World Record holder in the 800. After that swim, his coach explained that it was asthma – and sepicifically the symptoms he suffered while back in the highly-polluted China (as compared to the…highly-polluted Los Angeles, where he spent a trianing camp over the winter).
“I had expected that he could swim within 3:42 or 3:43 in the final, but the result was surprisingly bad,” Zhang’s coach Chen Yinghong told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “He told me that he felt stuffy and a little out of breath before the heats earlier Tuesday and didn’t feel good before the final either, but I didn’t think about the asthma at that time and just gave him some encouragement.
“(He) could swim within 3:50 even with a shoulder injury when trained in America, and he is in good condition recently. Even if he had not taken part in competition for a long time, the result should not be so bad. We thought about the reason the whole night, and the only explanation is his asthma.”
Day 3 Results
This is the swim that really got fans buzzing world-wide. 15-year old Xin Xin, after a great swim for 2nd in the 400 free, took victory in the 800 in 8:22.76. With yiwen Shao now 16-years old after a birthday in early March (and still among the best distance swimmer in the world), China needed a new disgustingly-young, disgustingly-good swimmer to take over the reigns.
That time ranks her second in the world this year, and puts her well ahead of Shao’s 8:29.49 that scored her second in this race. Another relative-unknown, Zhou Lili took 3rd in 8:31.15, with Li Zuanxu also inside the Olympic qualifying time at 8:31.29.
But back to Xin, China now has a pair of swimmers aged 16-and-younger who have been inside of 8:30 this season. Albeit on fairly-tapered swims from Xin, one would imagine, that’s an incredible performance from young swimmers. The Americans will see if they can answer that call, as they’ve got a group of young high school swimmers (Gillian Ryan, Katie Ledecky) who have also been very fast times in this 800 this year.
Compare this time to the marks put up by Janet Evans when she was 15 – specifically an 8:22.44 swum at the 1987 US Nationals, that was at the time a World Record – and it’s really scary. She’ll have to drop 5 more in the next year to keep pace with what Evans did as a 16-year old, but the swim is impressive.
That swim was extremely impressive, but over the course of the day, the swims generally were not. Sun Ye won the women’s 200 breaststroke in 2:24.54, which is the third-best time in the world but without many of the world’s best having tapered swims yet. That time is strong, but the swim of Ji Liping in 2nd in 2:26.79 was not – that swim is 2.5 seconds off of her 2011 swim from this meet. It was just barely fast enough, though, to sneak her under the Olympic Automatic selection time (by one-tenth, to be exact) to avoid a huge disappointment for China.
The Chinese men were hugely disappointing on this day of the meet. The 100 free top honors went to Lu Zhiwu in only 49.87, with only one other swimmer (Zhang Sijan in 49.92) cracking the 50-second barrier. In the 100 breast, Li Xiayan took the win, but only with a 1:01.06. That just out-touched Huang Yunkun in 1:01.07, and Chen Cheng in 1:01.12.
With how well the Chinese women have been doing, and how impressive the men’s distance and IM groups have been, that shouldn’t cover up the fact that the Chinese men are really struggling to develop a well-rounded, complete program.
And in the 200 free, though a very strong medal contender in the 800 free relay continued to get even better (and maybe make themselves contenders for the gold), with Shijia Wang pulling off an upset in 1:57.26, which is the best time of her career and better than three-seconds in improvement from her best time in 2012. She wasn’t even on China’s bronze-medal-winning team at last year’s World Championships, and though China exercises total discretion in the selection of relays (they’ve dropped swimmers before to replace them with more established ones), it would seem that Wang’s time here would be a huge boost to China.
Not swimming as well was Tang Yi, who as we mentioned after a dynamite 100 free on Tuesday struggles with consistency. She swam only 1:57.74 in this race, which was most surprising because of the best-time she posted in the earlier 100. She’s the anchor to all Chinese relays, and they really need her on top of her game every-single-swim in London.
The rest of the top four included Song Wenyan in 1:57.84, and Zhu Qianwei in 1:58.08. But on the assumption that China’s going to do what they want, note that standout relay swimmers from last year Pang Jiaying and Liu Jing were 5th and 6th in 1:58.60 and 1:58.95, respectively. They were huge legs for the Chinese last year, and it’s not clear that Wenyan or Qianwei can match their relay performances.