World Record Holder Ye Shiwen Says She’s Likely to Retire After Rio

World Record holding swimmer Ye Shiwen says that she’ll likely retire from competitive swimming after the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, despite being only 20 years old.

Ye is the current World Record holder in the 400 meter IM in long course meters from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games where she swam a 4:28.43 at just 16 years old. She’s also the defending Olympic champion and the Olympic Record holder in the 200 IM.

Speaking with at the Chinese National Team training camp in Norwalk, Connecticut on Saturday, Ye said that next month’s Olympic Games would probably be her last, which would end a career that burned as brightly as any for a brief period from 2011-2012 (where she was a World Champion in long course and short course meters, plus an Olympic Champion), but fizzled rapidly thereafter on battles with injury. Ye finished 7th in the 400 IM at the 2013 World Championships and 15th (and shy of the final) in Kazan, the latter of which came while battling a reported broken bone in her ankle.

Ye placed 7th at this year’s Chinese Olympic Trials in the 400 IM, 22 seconds from her own personal best, but as the World Record holder and defending champion, China still decided she had a better chance at a medal than the trials runner-up Wang Xingya (4:42.45) did. Ye recovered from a stomach issue during that 400 IM to have a better performance later in the week in the 200 IM.

Ye’s time progression in the 200IM and 400 IM at her major long course championship (2010-2015)


Meet 200 IM 400 IM
2010 Asian Games 2:09.37 (1st) 4:33.79 (1st)
2011 World Championships 2:08.90 (1st) 4:35.15 (5th)
2012 Olympic Games 2:07.57 (1st) 4:28.43 (1st)
2013 World Championships 2:10.48 (4th) 4:38.51 (7th)
2014 Asian Games 2:08.94 (1st) 4:32.97 (1st)
2015 World Championships 2:14.01 (8th) 4:42.96 (15th)



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bobo gigi

When we look at her times since 2010 we can see that she’s not just the woman of one meet. Of course her 4.28 and her last 50 that day will make react a long time but she’s not a shooting star who was nobody before London and who has been nobody since then.


Agreed.Ridiculous times at fourteen years-old.


Sure, nothing unique in this stardom world. And Ye Shiwen weirdness will be beaten by another but stronger one – Katinka Hosszu. Enjoy the circus.


so sad about the injurides
she is a fantastic swimmer and great champion.


Without getting into the drugs or no question, she also seems like one of those girls who gets a ‘golden year’ or two in between her final growth spurt and when the dread puberty sets in hard and causes body changes and messes with what had been a superior strength-weight ratio. Those girls are rarely the same after they try to retool with new strokes that work with their adult bodies- Amanda Beard is rather the exception- and most end up out of the sport entirely right around her age, again because of injuries constantly suffered during the technique retool attempt.


Are there any facts and data that support your opinion about Ye’s body changes since London OG? If it is some general consideration that aging body of young woman goes necessarily through such changes that slow down her racing abilities then look at Hosszu. Can’t wait for her 30x to see her breaking world records each time she competes.


She’s gotten flack from the Chinese press and fans about how she’s ‘gotten fat’ since London even though she’s always seemed like a rather normal looking 18-19 year old in a swimsuit to me. And she just seems to fit the pattern many have seen in that regard so many times before. Some girls have technique that relies on being light and having superior hip flexibility (more typical with girl wonder breaststrokers but Janet Evans- 5″4″ and something like 100 pounds at 16 was a freestyle ‘water bug’ ) and others don’t. I can remember the debates on ‘the death of ‘women’s’ breaststroke’ back in the 90s when a different group of those girls seemed to top the world… Read more »




Ye has not only suffered from ankle injuries and overall physical changes, she has also suffered from depression. (She couldn’t sleep for months at a time) . She did bounce back a little in 2014 and again in early 2016 after the successful surgery and weight loss. Even she had a such disappointing performance in Rio Olympics, I still hope she could regain her confidence. (During 200IM final, her poor result was largely due to her swimming goggles being knocked off, she’s almost blind in the water she nearly hit the wall when she turned. She admitted it’s a very stupid mistake).

Attila the Hunt

I think Missy Franklin was in similar situation after 2013. Most people blamed it on either Todd or Teri but never considered this physical changes aspect. I saw Gina often wrote something about this. Although her delivery of “Ledecky is not a little boy anymore” often put her on the receiving end of commenters’ wrath lol

phelps swims 200 breast rio

And Mary T. set her records in 1981. She never went faster.

ice age swimmer

Yes, but right now Missy looks leaner than she did in 2012. She’s never been fat, but she used to have a layer of smoothness over her muscles, which was interesting for an elite athlete and world record holder. If anything, I’d say she’s lost buoyancy right now. I still think that old back injury preys upon her mind. And her personality has changed (which is normal). When was the last time you saw her bouncing around to music at a meet?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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