2019 US Open Championships: Who is Ziyang Zhang?


One-and-a-half days through the 2019 U.S. Open Championships, you may have found yourself wondering: who is Ziyang Zhang?

So did we — and a quick Google search yielded only open water results. So we asked.

Zhang, 18, took seventh in the 800 free timed final Wednesday in 7:58.57, his third 800 free on record and first time under eight minutes. He was the only teenager to crack the top eight in a field that included former Worlds team members, NCAA mainstays, and international stars.

Then, Thursday morning, he swam to the top qualifying spot in prelims the 400 free, going 3:48.76. His only other 400 free on record was a 3:51.73 from Chinese Nationals in September.

Zhang has been with Team Santa Monica, home to Olympic open water specialist Jordan Wilimovsky, since the fall of this year. According to their coach Dave Kelsheimer, Ziyang goes by “Johnny” with the team, and comes from a Chinese city that hosts a big open water event. So he moved to Southern California looking to improve his 10k.

At the World Beach Games in October, Zhang took 23rd in the 5k, and at the Marathon Swimming World Cup stop in Chun’an in September, he took eighth in the 10k (this third straight year competing at that event).

“We have a strong middle distance to distance group of 8 trials level swimmers plus some visitors, most of whom have World Championships experience, including Team USA, Team GB, and Israel,” Kelsheimer told SwimSwam. “Being the youngest and least experienced, Johnny has really enjoyed racing in practice with a very competitive group.”

In addition to Zhang and Wilimovsky, Team Santa Monica has Katy Campbell, Gordon Mason, Idan Mordel, Matan Roditi, Isabelle Shapiro and Mattea Sokolow competing in Atlanta this week.

“His performance here is not a surprise for our group given some of the work he has done in training,” Kelsheimer said of Zhang’s lifetime bests in the 400 and 800 free. “Johnny has incredible speed and usually wins sprint day workouts, but has also started to hold his own at the distance work.

Zhang is entered in the 200 and 1500 free in addition to the 400 and 800 at the U.S. Open.

“We believe the 10k has evolved into just another distance event with so many podium or podium-potential pool swimmers dominating on the world stage,” added. “Johnny has huge potential in middle distance to 10k.”

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2 years ago

He swam a 3:48 yesterday, rather than 4:48

2 years ago

Someone ask him what he thinks about Sun Yang

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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