Jiayu Xu is a Chinese backstroke specialist and the national record holder of all backstroke distances in the country. Born August 19, 1995 Xu is originally from Zhejiang, China and he competed in his first Olympic Games at the 2012 London Olympics.
2012 London Olympics
Prior to the London Olympics Xu hadn’t made too many headlines on the international swimming scene. In an Olympic Games where China focused on entering its athletes in limited events to maximize swims, Xu was only entered in the 200-meter backstroke. In his event Xu touched in 8th within his heat, and finished 28th overall.
2014 Chinese Nationals
Xu really burst onto the scene at the 2014 Chinese Spring National Championships with a win in the 100-meter backstroke setting the world’s fastest time of the year. On day two of the meet Xu also won the 50-meter backstroke, posting the world’s third fastest time of the year. In the 200-meter back his time was five seconds faster than his performance in London, and won the event with a time that would’ve won the 2013 World Championships.
2015 World Championships
Going into the World Championships Xu was ranked within the top of world in the backstroke events. He took 4th in the 100-meter back, just .2 seconds away from a bronze medal. After finishing 3rd in the semi-final of the 200-meter back, Xu added less than a hundredth of a second, which earned him 6th place.
2016 Rio Olympics
Xu won his first Olympic medal in the 100 meter backstroke, taking silver in 52.31. He was surrounded either side on the podium by Americans Ryan Murphy with the gold and David Plummer with the bronze.
2017 World Championships
Xu finally got his World Championship medal in Budapest after coming so close but just missing out two years earlier. He won gold in the 100 meter backstroke in 52.44. He just touched out USA’s Matt Grevers and Ryan Murphy who took the remaining two spots on the podium.
He added to his gold with a bronze in the 400 meter mixed medley relay. Xu lead off in 52.37, right behind Grevers from USA. China combined in 3:41.25 to tied with Canada in third and was just 0.05 behind Australia in silver.
In the 200 meter backstroke Xu finished 5th in 1:55.26 and the 50 meter backstroke he finished 5th in 24.74.
2018 Asian Games
Xu continued his backstroke ascent as he swept the medal podium in the 50-200 in Jakarta. He first equaled Ryosuke Irie’s games record of 52.34 in the 100 to take gold by .19 over Irie. He again clipped Irie in the 50, 24.75 to 24.88. He capped off his individual performances with a Chinese national record in the 200 in 1:53.99, dethroning Irie as the 2-time defending Asian champion. In addition to his backstroke sweep, he led off the winning mixed 4×100 medley relay, and finished off his meet by going 4-for-4 and helping the Chinese men to their first relay gold of the games, leading off the 4×100 medley relay in 52.60 that went on to break the Asian record (3:29.99).
2018 Short Course World Championships
Xu was the runnerup in the 100 backstroke (49.26) and also earned a bronze with the 4×200 freestyle relay team in Hangzhou. Xu also finished sixth in the 200 backstroke (1:49.91).
2019 World Championships
After breaking a 10-year-old championship record in semi finals (52.17), Xu successfully defended his world title in the 100 back. Surging past American Ryan Murphy on the 2nd 50, he touched the wall 1st in a time of 52.43.
2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)
Xu was excellent in the 100 back prelims with a 52.87 and semis with a 52.42. In the finals, he was just off his semis time in 52.64 but fell to 4th. His semis time would have netted bronze. He put up a 52.42 to lead off the Chinese mixed 400 medley and put them in 2nd. Qin Haiyang (57.31) moved them to 1st and Zhang Yufei (55.69) and Cheng Yujie (53.15) helped them maintain 1st.
In the 50 back, he was solid with a 24.73 in prelims. He was better with a 24.41 to tie Hunter Armstrong in semis. In the final on the last day of racing, Xu captured bronze in a 24.50. To end that session, he was 53.39 on the 400 medley relay lead-off. It was only the 5th fastest lead-off but the rest of his team pulled through with a big 3:29.00 to get silver and set a new Asian record.