Chinese Olympian Sun Yang‘s hometown of Hangzhou rose to its feet when the 27-year-old took to the FINA Short Course World Championships pool as a member of the nation’s 4x200m freestyle relay. With no individual events listed for the Olympic gold medalist on the competition’s entry list, swim enthusiasts were skeptical the big man of China would make an appearance in Hangzhou at all.
But, the freestyle ace indeed did, participating in China’s prelims and final of the aforementioned relay. In the morning, Sun produced one of the fastest splits of the field with his 2nd leg time of 1:43.01 to help China nail the 4th seed.
Come the finals, the foursome of Ji Xinjie, Xu Jiayu, Sun and Wang Shun combined to claim the bronze medal in an overall time of 6:47.53. The outing finished behind winning team Brazil, who notched a surprise World Record for gold, and Russia who earned silver. All of the top 3 teams dipped under the previous WR mark set by Russia 8 years ago.
For China, splits included 1:42.67 for Ji, 1:41.68 for Xu, 1:41.25 for Sun and 1:41.93 for Wang. They collectively clocked a new Chinese National Record en route to bronze.
After the race, Sun told Asian media,“The result today proved that I’ve made progress in improving my previous technical weaknesses, which can be better assessed in a short-course race.
“It’s my first short-course race in a long time. I was still rusty getting used to the rhythm in the 25m pool but the result was really encouraging so I feel I am capable of making further technical breakthroughs to swim better in Tokyo.”
“A medal in the relay, although it’s not the color we wanted the most, is a huge boost for our team and myself,” said Sun.
Sun’s coach Zhu Zhigen, whom the Olympian reunited with in April of last year, said of his protegé, “He is not built for the 25m race but he can still draw enough positive energy from the relay performance and learn from the experience this time to continue polishing his details.”
Sun will need that positive energy if he wants to succeed at his goal of winning the 200m, 400m and 800m free events at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I am now fully geared up for a tough training program to prepare for the (long-course) world championships in Gwangju (South Korea) next year and the Olympics in Tokyo,” Sun said.
The Chinese mega-star now heads to Australia for a training stint under his former long-time coach Denis Cotterell.