Yearender: New dawn for Chinese swimming

Updated: 2011-12-29 12:51


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BEIJING - New dawn has come as Chinese swimmers impressed the world in the year 2011 by making good results and big progress.

China have six world fastest results by the end of the year, from the men's 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle, as well as the women's 100m backstroke, 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley. China expect good results from those events at the 2012 London Games.

Chinese swimming is on a right track of progress since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where they finished with one gold, three silvers and two bronzes. At the 2009 Rome worlds, China posted a 4-2-4 record to finish third after powerhouse the United States and Germany.

This year at the Shanghai worlds, the hosts consolidated their position with a 5-2-7 haul, which was their best result at the world championships since 1994, putting them second in the medals table behind the United States and signalling their ambition to make a bigger splash in the London Olympics.

The most important is China not only have some advantage in the women's swimming, the men's swimmers are catching up.

The 20-year-old Sun Yang has become one of the most famous swimmers after claiming the men's 800m and 1,500m freestyle gold medals at the Shanghai worlds and broke the 1,500m freestyle world record held by Australian Grant Hackett for 10 years.

Sun is set to be a gold favorite next summer at the London Olympic Games. "I can still swim better in the 1,500m freestyle next year. My coach has set me a new target, but it's not the right time to release it now," said Sun, who will be a strong competitor in the men's 400m and 1,500m freestyle swimming in London.

Besides the good performance from Sun, Olympic runner-up and Rome worlds 800m free champion Zhang Lin led the Chinese men's team to a historic bronze medal in the men's 4X200m freestyle relay at the Shanghai worlds, as this bronze was their first in the men's relay at World Championships.

Zhang, who went through a tough year in 2010 after winning the men's 800m freestyle at the Rome worlds in 2009, went back to pace this year and will be a medal hope at London.

"I trained in the United Stated for two months after the Shanghai worlds and my form was getting better," Zhang said. "I will go to Kunming for winter training and hope I can get good results at next year's National Championships."

The Chinese women swimmers also sprang some surprises this year. The 15-year-old Ye Shiwen stunned the world by claiming the 200m individual medley title with a strong dash at the Shanghai worlds.

The 20-year-old Jiao Liuyang, runner-up of the women's 200m butterfly at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, claimed the event in Shanghai. It was Jiao's first gold at the World Championships. She also clinched four golds and a silver in the World Military Games in Brazil in July.

The women's 200m fly has been dominated by China since the Beijing Games where Liu Zige broke the world record and claimed the gold. Although Liu was not in shape in Shanghai and only took a bronze, she and Jiao will be hot favorites for the event in London.

Chinese backstroke queen Zhao Jing, 20, snatched the 200m backstroke title at the Shanghai worlds and held the world fastest result of the 100m backstroke in the year.

The women's 4X100m medley relay gold at the Shanghai worlds proved the strength of the Chinese women swimmers and will definitely be a gold hope at London.

The National Championships next April will be very important for the Chinese swimmers as the final squad for London will be decided.

World champions Sun Yang, Zhao Jing and Jiao Liuyang will head for Australia for training in December, while Olympic champion Liu Zige trains in the northern Chinese city of Shanhaiguan.

"We will train in Australia for about 10 weeks," said Sun. "I want to strengthen 1,500m freestyle and make some improvements in 200m and 400m."

Talking about the London Olympics next year, head coach Yao Zhengjie expressed his confidence.

"We hope we can get better results in London than what we did at the 2008 Beijing Games," Yao said.