13th Annual National Games of China
The 13th Annual National Games of China, or China’s ‘mini-Olympics’ as they are sometimes referred to, kicked off in Tianjin with an artistic Opening Ceremony on Sunday, August 27th. The largest edition of this competition to date is expected to draw 12,721 athletes across 33 sports, spanning 38 delegations. The participating entities include all of China’s provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions, the Hong Kong and Macao, People’s Liberation Army and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, among several others.
Held every 4 years, the National Games include disciplines from weightlifting to shooting, from track and field to swimming, collectively offering 341 events through its conclusion on September 8th.
Swimming events began today with some of the nation’s biggest stars already hitting the pool. Olympic champion Sun Yang, Rio bronze medalist Wang Shun and former 400 IM world record holder Ye Shiwen made their marks early in the competition, setting the stage for their domestic competitors.
After establishing himself as the expected early leader in the men’s 400m freestyle prelims, clocking a time of 3:48.12, Sun Yang blasted an evening mark of 3:41.94 to easily claim gold. His time crushed the competition, with the next-closest competitor in Ji Xinjie registering a time of 3:47.52 for silver.
Sun Yang’s time of 3:41.94 checks in as the 5th fastest of the 25-year-old’s prolific career. The sub-3:42 outing is within rage of Sun’s 3:41.38 gold medal-winning time from the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, as well as the 3:41.68 that resulted in silver for the Chinese swimmer at the 2016 Olympic Games. In fact, Sun’s time tonight falls within the top 21 performances of all-time in the event.
Next, Olympic bronze medalist in the 200 IM, Wang Shun, established himself as a force early on in the meet as well, dominating the men’s 400m IM final. Clocking a time of 4:12.59, Shun won by 3 seconds to register the best time of his career. His performance tonight crushed the 4:14.46 produced in Rio, as well as the 4:20.01 he earned to finish 20th in the event in Budapest.
Former Chinese and World Junior record holder Wang Lizhuo was also in the water today competing in the men’s prelims and semi-finals of the 100m breaststroke. The People’s Liberation Army athlete opened the event this morning with a time of 1:00.78, then clocked a time of 59.98 to earn the 2nd seed headed into tomorrow night’s final.
Ahead of Lizhuo is the current national record holder in the event, Yan Zibei, who cruised to the only sub-minute swim of prelims with a time of 59.49, only to then register the only sub-59 second mark of the evening in 58.97. Zibei’s personal best and Chinese NR sits at the 58.92 clocked in April of this year, so the 21-year-old Olympian is already within a tenth of that mark with the final yet to come.
The women’s individual events included the 100m butterfly and 400m IM, with the latter’s final taking place this evening. After taking the top seed this morning in a time of 4:41.63, 2012 400m IM Olympic champion Ye Shiwen wound up placing 6th overall in tonight’s final, only able to muster a time of 4:46.94.
On top of the women’s 400m IM tonight was Zhou Min, who touched the wall in 4:40.75 over Xu Danlu, who settled for silver in 4:42.53. Bronze tonight went to Wang Xinya in her time of 4:43.40. For Zhou Min, tonight’s outing represents a personal best, overtaking the 4:42.15 she collected while competing at the Dave McCullah Memorial Meet in Ireland back in March 2016.
The women’s 100m butterfly is proving to be a dogfight, with the top 5 seeds all sitting within .7 of a second of one another. Zhang Yufei led both prelims and semi-finals, registering respective times of 58.72 and 58.23. That places the World Championships finalist just under two tenths ahead of Wang Yichen, who holds a 2nd seeded time of 58.40 headed into tomorrow night’s main event.
The 4th place finisher in this event in Rio, Lu Ying, sneaked into the final with the 7th seeded time of 59.19.