Sun, coach head back to the pool

Updated: 2013-03-04 00:33

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Champion swimmer and mentor reunited after acrimonious rift

The tension between star swimmer Sun Yang and his long-term mentor has eased and the duo will return to practice pool on Monday.

Double Olympic champion swimmer Sun finally apologized to coach Zhu Zhigen after making his coach of 10 years angry with a request to replace him last month. Sun posted a photo of him hugging Zhu on his micro blog on Saturday.

Li Jianshe, president of the Zhejiang College of Sport, with which Sun and Zhu are affiliated, confirmed to China Daily that the ice has melted and Sun will start to practice under Zhu's guidance again.

"Yes, they have already reconciled and will continue working together. Sun will return to the training pool on Monday," Li said on Sunday.

Beginning to nurture Sun in 2003 when he was 12, Zhu is the man behind the 21-year-old's success, including two gold medals at the London Games last year.

Concerned that too many out-of-pool obligations would hamper Sun's preparations for this year's World Championships in July, Zhu voiced his disapproval of the freestyle star's budding romance with a flight attendant last month, but was met with firm resistance from Sun, who went as far as to asking college management to replace Zhu.

The appeal backfired as the college punished Sun for his quarrel with the coach and a sleepover outside the camp by withholding a month of Sun's stipend and suspending him from attending any commercial activities.

Although realizing his transgressions, Sun didn't officially apologize to Zhu until this weekend because he "felt too embarrassed to say sorry", said Shang Xiutang, director of the national swimming administrative center.

"He knew he did something wrong, but took a while to clear his mind and get ready to apologize to Zhu," Shang was quoted as saying by multiple Chinese media on Sunday.

"Sun told me he knew it was impossible for him to split with coach Zhu and he understood Zhu criticized him for his own good. They will start over soon," said Shang, who visited the college to talk to both parties this month.

On whether the governing body will stop Sun from dating his girlfriend, Shang's attitude was ambiguous.

"He's the Olympic champion, who has great social influence. Practicing to keep his form is his priority so we are in objection to his dating during training. But if their relationship is established, it's inappropriate to force them apart. Our requirement of him now is to concentrate on his training and follow all the team's rules."

Sun is scheduled to compete at the national swimming championships, which begin on April 1 in Zhengzhou, Henan province. It is the qualifying meet for the World Championships and National Games in September.

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