The first day at the 2012 Chinese Olympic Swimming Trials, also known as their Long Course national Championship meet, was relatively quiet, despite a National Record being broken by a 17-year old.
Day 2, however, began a fire-storm with Sun Yang in tow and swimming his first race in the men’s 400 free, where he swam the world’s fastest time in 3:42.31. That swim, apparently, wasn’t good enough for the highly-demanding Chinese media that are still relative novices to swimming – despite hosting an Olympic and World Championship in the last four years.
The expectation seems to be that they think he will swim a best-time and a World Record (or close to it) every time he enters the pool. Chinese sports stars are placed under a huge amount of pressure (the government invests a lot into their success, and to some extent they act as a bit of propaganda for the reigning party and the international fame they bring to the country), and so the typical swimming boom-and-bust cycle is going to be somewhat of a change to them.
More rightfully disappointing, however, were the 2nd-and-3rd place times from Hao Yun (3:46.01) and Li Yunqi (3:49.12). Both of those swimmers are very young, however, both were significantly faster (four seconds in Li’s case) at the meet they swam in January in Miami, Australia where the weather was dreadful. Li’s time there is the second-best in the world this year, but now he won’t make the team in this 400 free.
The same story would go for Lin Zhang, who is the defending Olympic silver medalist in the event but finished in only 3:49.14 at this meet. Perhaps the disappointment was in Sun and Lin giving pre-meet interviews claiming to be in good condition, and Lin even taking a trip to Southern California to work with American coach Dave Salo for a period.
Shao Yiwen and Xin Xin swam very close in the women’s 400 free to place first and second in 4:05.88 and 4:05.93, respectively. For Xin, that was a best-time and enough to put her on the Olympic Team, for Yiwen, she was faster at Worlds last year, but this all continues to point at signs that Chinese Swimming is starting to figure it out – do just enough at trials, and save your best for Worlds (except in the case of very green swimmers like Xin, where they need a best swim at some point prior to the Olympics).
In the 200 IM, defending World Champion Ye Shiwen, who turned 16 on the first of this month, showed another very-controlled swim for the Chinese with a 2:09.43 win in the 200 IM: her best event. She’s now ranked second in the world in 2012 (just .05 behind Australian Stephanie Rice). Her closing speed was a bit tempered in this race, but we’ll have to wait and see if that was due to a different preparation or a different strategy.
In 2nd was Zheng Rong Rong in 2:12.8, also putting her on the team. She’s not as big of a name as Ye, after not making the World Championship squad last year, but she was an alternate on the 2010 Asian Games team. 3rd-place went to Li Jiaxing in 2:13.17.
The men’s 100 back title went in a new Chinese National Record to Cheng Feiyi with a time of 53.87 – making him the first Chinese swimmer under 54 seconds in the event. He bettered the old record of 54.09 held by Ouyang Kunpeng in 2005 at 54.09. That had stood as the oldest individual record in Chinese men’s swimming.
In the women’s 100 free, Yi Tang swam a 53.71, which is the best time of her career. After bursting into the light at the 2010 Youth Olympics, Yi has struggled to live up to her potential, but now that she’s just-turned 19 the all of China will be looking for her to turn “potential” into “results”. She’s swum well at different points of her career, and most importantly for China is a great relay swimmer as they try to move up into medal position after taking 4th last summer with home-pool advantage.
The four behind her were right-on-target for where their flat-start times should be presuming that they, like many in this meet, aren’t at full taper. The Chinese Swimming Federation, though, will have some tough decisions to make regarding this relay (they haven’t been afraid to make those decisions in the past), as Yi was the only among last year’s relay members to repeat in the top four at this year’s Trials. That includes Li Zhesi, who led-off last year’s relay in a very respectable 54.3, but wasn’t even in the top 6 at this year’s meet.
And in a non-Olympic final, Ann-Arbor, United States-trained Wu Peng won the 50 fly in 23.72, which puts him in a three-way tie for 10th for whatever it’s worth. He didn’t have enough time to fade at the end of this 50 fly like he did hard in the last 20 meters of the 200 (where he placed 2nd on Monday).
Top Three’s From All Races:
M 50 Fly
Wu Peng 23″72
Zhou Jiawei 23″84
Zhang Qibing 24″04
W 400 Free
Shao Yiwen 4’05″88
Xin Xing 4’05″94
Zhou Lili 4’08″64
M 400 Free
Sun Yang 3’42″31
Hao Yun 3’46″01
Li Yunqi 3’49″12
(Zhang Lin was fourth with a 3’49″14)
W 200 IM
Ye Shiwen 2’09″43
Zheng Rongrong 2’12″18
Li Jiaxing 2’13″17
M 100 Back
Cheng Feiyi 53″87 (National Record)
He Jianbin 54″25
Lin Yongqin 55″27
W 100 Free
Tang Yi 53″71
Qiu Yuhan 55″04
Wang Haibing 55″18
M 4×100 FR