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 ECNS.net. “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.