It’s been a couple of years of controversy for Sun Yang since his dominant victories in the 400,800 and 1500m freestyle events at the 2013 World Championships. Since this great feat he has gone on to lose his driving license and serve a criminal sentence while also serving a three month doping suspension.
These scandals have created a dip in performance. The clearest example is Sun not being ranked in the top five of his best event, the 1500m freestyle, in 2015. In fact his best time of the year, 15.00.73, is nearly 30 seconds from his 14.31.02 best set at the 2012 Olympics.
However, his coach, Zhang Yadong, believes that Sun is 90-95% of his peak form from his results in training, according to The New Indian Express. This may be all Sun needs to take certain titles in Kazan with many potential rivals pulling out, most notably Kosuke Hagino and Yannick Agnel.
Sun will be competing in the 200, 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle. Based on past evidence, the 200 may be perceived as his weakest event but nevertheless probably his best gold medal prospect in Kazan. He is currently ranked second in the world with a 1:45.75. He will be looking to repeat his 1:44.9 best from London or even get close to the 1.43 he split anchoring the China relay to bronze in Barcelona.
The distance events, however, will require Sun at his best to take the gold. The rise of Mack Horton and Gregorio Paltrinieri will most likely require Sun to break 14.40 to take the title. Sun has yet to break the 15 minutes barrier this year and therefore may be a stretch to land the gold ahead of the rising Australian and Italian youngsters.
The 400m on the other hand may provide the race of the meet. Whilst Mack Horton has the fastest time in the world this year at 3:42.84, Sun still has a 3:40.14 best and if he we are to believe his coach, 90-95% of his peak performance will deliver Sun the gold medal.