Ye Shiwen Hopes 200 IM Gold Will ‘Bring Her Out Of The Shadows’


Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen was once on top of the world, having claimed both 200m IM and 400m IM titles at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Then just 16 years of age, Ye represented the first swimmer from her nation to collect two golds at an Olympics, with countryman Sun Yang completing the same feat days later.

Since that time, however, Ye has fallen on rough times performance-wise, finishing 7th in the 400m IM at the 2013 World Championships and 15th in the event in Kazan. At the 2016 Olympic Games, the former world record holder and youngest Chinese world champion finished well out of the semi-finals in the event with a 27th place after heats.

Once considering retirement, now-21-year-old Ye is determined to get her career back on track, first by acknowledging that she has had her share of problems. Speaking with the press while competing at the National Games in China this week, Ye said, “For the past few years I was at a low ebb. Although my daily training went quite nicely, I couldn’t bring it to a full display in competitions because every time I competed, I was afraid. I wanted to win as much as I feared to lose.” (Xinhua)

Having put on teenage weight and experienced bouts of trouble sleeping, the young athlete’s confidence was shaken, leading her Coach Xu Guoyi to even suggest that she give up swimming to focus solely on her studies.  But Ye said, “I didn’t want to let it go. I am extremely self-disciplined in life and absolutely hard-working. I want to show all my efforts in the competition. I will not give up. I will continue trying until I win.”

In Tianjin this week, Ye finished 6th in the 400m IM, but bounced back with a gold in the 200m IM race.  Stopping the clock in 2:10.91, Ye was able to beat out the competition by well over a second, while earning a time on her own personal top 10 list.

After her race on Sunday, Ye said, “I conquered the fear in me. After I lost the 400m, I couldn’t sleep. I had been well prepared for the race and believed that I was in good shape, but the loss almost crushed me.

“I started to doubt myself again like before. I was so afraid that fear would catch hold of me again.” But in fact Ye’s 200 IM on Sunday was her best performance in over a year.

“Hopefully, this victory at the National Games will be my first step out of the my past shadows.”

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IMs for days

I do feel some sympathy for the girl. Her swims at london 2012 were without a doubt suspicious, but she was also only 16. Teenagers are emotional and fragile, and I can’t imagine having all of western media accusing you of being a fraud. I am rightfully very suspious of the chinese, as their state doping problem is just as bad, if not worse, than Russia, yet they haven’t been busted. But the treatment of Ye after london was just cruel, and is nice to see her get confidence back, doped or not.


Here’s an interesting perspective from two University of Kansas researchers over why Ye Shiwen’s swim is not as suspicious as many people make it out to be: Some of it is good, some of it I think is reaching a bit, I’ll let everyone draw their own conclusions, but the important point here is where they compare final 50’s from other championship meets by Lochte and Ye: “So simply speaking London Olympics is not Lochte’s best time (no offense!). Ye’s 28.93s in the last 50m is her career best. In contrast, Lochte’s 29.0s in the same event was almost the worst among the five finals recorded in our database (only better than his score of 30.08s at the 2008… Read more »


But the point is not how she compares to Lochte, it is how she compares to all other finalists and how she compares to all other elite female 400imers.


I concur that 29 is not a strong finish at all for an elite swimmer at a major meet. Last summer in Iowa city i witnessed a 14yo boy winning 400mIM with a 29 in a mid-season meet. His time as I recall was 4:52, far from the elite level. Numbers don’t lie.

Jim C

I’m surprised a 14 year old in Iowa would swim a mid season meet in LCM and not SCY. But in any case what your numbers tell me is that he could have swum a faster time with different pacing, which is very likely no big deal. In a similar way the pacing of Ye Shiwen suggest that she could have swum even faster with different pacing, and she still swam about 3.3s faster than any female had done before in a textile suit. It was not just the fast finish which was shocking, but that in combination with a very fast time. Also it was the final 100 rather than just the final 50 which was generally considered more… Read more »


Jim C – First of all, you need to read my comment more carefully – why were you surprised he swam in a LCM meet in a LCM season? Why not?? I did say “last summer” which means LCM season in Iowa. This meet is called Swim Pink, an annual meet held at the U of IA, actually a very fast mid-season meet where several old swimmers made the OT cuts. Secondly I used his time in the last 50 to support Sven’s comment that RL’s last 50 was indeed very slow for an elite swimmer of his caliber. I don’t know this boy’s pacing strategy or Ye Shiwen’s, thus not suggesting any different outcomes of their races. My point… Read more »

Jim C

A final 50 time says virtually nothing about what you can do over the final 100. Do you know what the boy actually swum over the last 100? And obviously a swimmer can swim the final part of a race faster if the pace has been slow up to that point.


I recall his first 50 was 32 something, resulting in a 1:01 high or 1:02 low in his last 100. Again my point was that it’s baseless that Ye was accused of doping because she out split RL in her final 50. An average 14 yr old boy could almost do that in a mid-season meet.


Another set of relevant numbers I posted elsewhere but on the same subject: Ye’s physical change: 2012 5’8″ 132lbs; now 5’8″ 155lbs.

sven – I think it’s important to keep bringing these points up. Most people in swimming have figured this out by now, but every now and then, someone who hasn’t been paying attention still wants to bring up that last 50. We don’t know for sure that Ye isn’t doping (any moreso than we know that Lochte or anybody else isn’t doping), but if she is, it’s not because she out-split Lochte on that 50.


Has she ever talked about her 400 IM WR race?

How she was feeling, what her strategy was, why she swam so fast that day, and then never came close to it again?

Since she seems to be talking, let’s hear her “side of the story.”


Steve Nolan

Agreed. Suspicions of athletes in a macro sense is totally fine, I assume they’re all on something and it ain’t bother me. But when you’re zeroing in on a single person that’s never failed a test, that’s when it gets out of hand.


It was very rude of suspicion


Poor Ye Shiwen ,the attack of western media in 2012 really hurt her.
They should apologize to her.


I think it was more injuries and weight gain that hurt her than what people said across the world in a language she doesn’t know. Olympic athletes are mentally tough and Ye had problems after 2012 that affected her mentality in terms of performing at major competitions. What other people say about a performance does not result in an athlete experiencing a decrease in performance like the world saw from Ye.
These athletes are not delicate little flowers and thinking that they would perform much worse than their peak for FIVE YEARS because their feelings got hurt is ridiculous.


Heroes in a half shell

About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

Loretta grew up outside Toledo, OH, where she swam age group and high school. Graduating from Xavier University, she stayed in the Cincinnati, OH area and currently resides just outside the city in Northern KY.  Loretta got back into the sport of swimming via Masters and now competes and is …

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