China’s Sun Yang Reuniting With Coach Zhu Zhigen, Renews Focus On 1500

As the Chinese National Championships get underway in Taiyuan today, world record holder Sun Yang is making his debut appearance alongside coach Zhu Zhigen, his new, ‘old’ coach. Sun and Zhu had worked together in the past until the duo parted way back in 2014, around the time Sun was arrested for driving without a license. At the time, Zhu had resigned from coaching Sun due to ‘health concerns’, but stayed on as the coach of Shao Yiwen and Wang Shun.

Apart for 4 years, Sun and Zhu are back together with an eye on this year’s Asian Championships and, most likely, on to Tokyo 2020.

“We knew each other over a decade with a good relationship,” Sun said this week to “We made some communications for my perspective in training and games after I finished the Olympics in Rio. And the Chinese swimming team also would like to see that we can go to fight together.”

Linking back up with Zhu may at least temporarily put the ever-present rumors of a reunion with former Aussie coach Dennis Cotterell to rest. Since 2017, it has been speculated that Cotterell, the storied Aussie coach who has a long history of having worked with Chinese swimmers throughout his career, including Sun, would create a swimming super center of sorts in Australia. At one point, The Daily Telegraph reported that the Chinese government had indeed approached Cotterell to lead the Chinese team at such a facility, but the Aussie claimed any formal contracts between himself and Chinese swimming ‘were rubbish.’

In the meantime, working with Zhu, Sun will be refocusing his efforts on the event in which is reigns as world record holder. At a time when Australian nemesis Mack Horton is looking at dropping the 1500, Sun’s coach is putting the spotlight on the grueling even for Sun. “The 1,500 meters freestyle is a basic event for him. If he gives up this one and he will lose the rest of (the) events,” the coach said. “Therefore Sun Yang has to make recovery on the previous training abilities, and when he has a desire to win the title, we will make good efforts.”

Sun took double gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, winning the 400m, and 1500m freestyle events while nabbing silver in the 200m. That was followed by a shock no-show in the 1500m final in Kazan due to heart trouble. In Rio, Sun settled for silver the 400m, won the 200m, but completely missed the 1500m Olympic final.

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Nice! I’m looking forward to the dogfight between Sun, Paltrinieri, Romanchuk and Wellbrock. Who will be the first under 14:30?


Add Ipsen to that mix




I think no someone can swmming 1500 freestyle under 14:30s about 10 year later


I wonder if he’s renewing his relationship with heart meds, too?


This comment has aged well haha


The guy’s been the heart of some controversies, pun intended, but I still give him some credit for being willing to do this. It’s by far easier and more common to drop the longer distances as you get older, going the other way takes some real dedication. He has a beautiful stroke that isn’t showcased so much in the shorter races. Hoping we get to see it again.

Michael j. Mooney

Really like him in the 200 and 400…think he could win in Tokyo…that 1500 gets almost dangerous as age sets in.

Ex Quaker

Depending on who you are. I’m sure people like Haley Anderson and Ferry Weertman would have something to say about that.


That’s slightly different.


Day 1 of the Chinese National Championship just ended with him winning 200 easily with 1:46.07, and more notably two world #1 times in Women’s 1500 (Wang) and Men’s 100BK (Xu). Sun said in an interview before the meet that his heart issue continued to bother him, especially during tough training. He said he was once taken to ER in the middle of the night and stayed there for 2-3 days before resuming normal training. It would be tough to train for 1500 with his age and heart issues.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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