2015 Asian Male Swimmer of the Year: Sun Yang
It’s an odd year for China’s Sun Yang to win this award, given his most-talked about race of the year was the one he failed to show up for.
The world record-holder was a no-show in the 1500 free at the 2015 FINA World Championships, citing a heart problem during warmups as rumors swirled about an altercation with a female swimmer in a warmup pool during prelims (an incident the Chinese swimming federation and FINA said was unrelated to his late scratch).
But that craziness aside, what’s maybe most impressive about Sun’s year was that he earns this award even despite a chaotic situation that left him without a swim in arguably his best event.
Sun was a double gold-medalist at Worlds, and nearly pulled off an impressive sweep of the 200, 400 and 800 frees. Sun was just .06 out of gold medal status in the shortest of those races, a distance man swimming right in the hunt with swimmers focused much more on the middle distances.
His 400 and 800 times (3:42.58 and 7:39.96, respectively) were dominating, and wound up leading the world rankings by respectable margins. Meanwhile, Sun’s three medals made up nearly a quarter of China’s total in the pool, and his home nation sat solidly second in the overall medal tally at meet’s end.
In no particular order.
Ning Zetao, China: Ning’s 100 free title at the World Championships was one of the most impressive wins of the year, considering the field he beat. Ning became the first Chinese man ever to win the 100 free at the World Championships, a sign of China’s rise as a sprint nation in addition to its distance prowess.
- Kosuke Hagino, Japan: This award sure felt like Hagino’s to lose until the versatile Japanese superstar fell off a bike at a Japanese National Team training camp and injured his elbow, taking him out of contention for Worlds. Even without a World Champs appearance, Hagino garners honorable mention for his numerous swims still ranked in the top 5 worldwide for the year.
- Joseph Schooling, Singapore: Schooling won Singapore’s first-ever medal at the FINA World Championships, taking third in the 100 fly in a new Asian record. Though the competition was considerably less-intense, Schooling also dominated the Southeast Asian Games in historic fashion, winning 9 gold medals. His two-win (plus one relay win) performance at the NCAA Championships was another big 2015 weekend for the rising star.
- Daiya Seto, Japan: With Hagino injured, Seto picked up the slack for Japan, winning the World Championships gold medal in the 400 IM, Japan’s only medal on the men’s side.