Chinese 13-Year Old Xu Danlu Posts Stunning Times at Asian Swimming Championships

The 2012 edition of the 9th Asian Swimming Championships (perhaps a bit of a misnomer as they are actually a full Aquatics Championships) wrapped up Sunday in Dubai, and with most of the elite Japanese team sitting the meet out, it was Chinese domination.

The most buzzworthy swims of the weekend, swum in long course, came from 13-year old Xu Danlu in the women’s distance freestyle events.

First, on Saturday, she posted a juggernaut of a time in the women’s 400 free with a 4:05.75. Then, a day later on Sunday, she posted an 8:22.24 in the women’s 800. Granted, she was probably at a much different place in her season than her countrymate Yiwen Shao (4:10.88/8:37.40), who is coming off of an Olympic performance, but in both cases she ran away from the competition.

That 400 time ranks her 14th and 7th in the world in 2012, and in both cases as the fastest Chinese swimmer. At that, she’s only 13 years old. We’ve seen some young swimmers show a lot of potential at that age (Missy Franklin, for example, qualified for the American Duel in the Pool roster just after turning 14, ), but perhaps the last swimmer who was this spectacular that young is American Mary T. Meagher – who broke the 200 fly World Record when she was only 14.

That shows that while still highly unusual, there’s at least somewhat of a once-in-a-generation precedent for a swimmer that age being that fast. Of course, the questions should immediately begin to fly about what might cause such phenomenal times for a young swmimer, just as they always have, but for now we will marvel in the afterglow.

Among other highlights on the women’s side of the pool was Zhao Jing, who won both the 50 and 100 backstrokes in times of 27.83 and 59.97, respectively. That 50 time ranks 3rd in the world this year, though in Olympic years 50 meter times are never that impressive.

It’s not uncommon for Chinese swimmers to come back and swim well in the fall after the big summer championship, though not all were as good as Jing. Tang Yi won the women’s 50 and 100 freestyles, but only in times of 25.70 and 54.90.

China’s male superstar Sun Yang dominated the 200-1500 freestyle events, including Championship Records in both the 200 (1:45.49) and 400 (3:42.49). All three times are fairly close to what he swam in London, given the length of the swims. He has now been under 14:45 7 times in his career, which leaves him one shy of the total that Aussie Grant Hackett amassed during his career (that should fall by the wayside shortly).

Wang Shun also swept his specialty, the 400 IM, winning in 1:58.66 and a new Championship Record of 4:16.59. Until very recently, the whole of the Asian continent has struggled in the IM races, but between the Chinese and Japanese, that is quickly changing. Disappointingly, we didn’t get the chance to see any of Japan’s young IM group participate in this meet.

In the men’s 200 backstroke, China’s Zhang Fenglin swam a 1:56.38. That’s twice he’s been nearly an identical time in the three months since the Olympic Games.

From outside of the great Chinese performance, the highlights included a 52.73 from South Korea’s Chang Gyu-Cheol to win the men’s 100 fly. That’s within a tenth of his time from the Olympics and almost cracked the National Record.

Japan, despite being without their elite breaststrokers, showed that their depth is almost unending. 27-year old veteran Kazuki Kohinata won both the 100 (1:02.18) and 200 (2:12.13) breaststrokes.

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10 years ago

more impressed with fast young male swimmers (thinking chas morton here). I think the 18 year old japanese kid breaking the 2 breast world record (without anyone to race) is more impressive than a 13 year old girl going pretty fast in a distance event

Russ Davis
10 years ago

Trying to figure out what times of Chinese swimmers mean is a little like trying to figure out what the actions of the Chinese government mean. 100 years may go by and it’s too soon to tell.

10 years ago

1974 – Jenny Turrell at 13 broke the WR 800 8.50 & 18 months later at altitude in Cali almost broke her own 8.43 WR. I figure she could have swum sub 8.40 at a decent venue devoid of gastro bugs.

Another super young swimmer – Sippy Woodhouse & indeed a whole rash of distance girls in 78 . Tracey Wickham Michelle Ford blew WR s away.

Little girls with big hearts & amazing recovery times with pre pubescent bodies can do very well.

Reply to  Jg
10 years ago

Krisztina Egerszegi won Olympic a month or so after turning 14. Worth mentioning.

Reply to  Jg
10 years ago

Sippy Woodhead

10 years ago

Is it fair to say that, in the men’s 400 IM, everybody had fun tonight?

swimmer 2
Reply to  Daaaave
10 years ago

Wang Chung. Close, though…

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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