No serious fight between Sun and coach

Updated: 2013-04-22 16:23

By Sun Xiaochen (

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Sun Yang and his coach have butted heads again, but senior Chinese swimming officials claim the most recent dispute between the two is little more than a storm in a tea cup.

Just a month and a half after an earlier quarrel, the relationship between Sun and his mentor, Zhu Zhigen, soured again after multiple media reports said on Saturday that a fierce disagreement between the two became physical last week.

However, Zhang Yadong, vice-president of the Zhejiang College of Sport, at which Sun and Zhu are affiliated, said the tension had eased.

"The thing was resolved the day that it happened," Zhang said. "It wasn't as serious as some media described."

According to numerous reports, the incident happened on April 15 when Zhu voiced his disapproval of Sun being accompanied by a sponsor's representative during a training session. Zhu was alleged to have physically ejected the sponsor's staff member from the training area, which drew a strong response from Sun, who tried to protect the member of sponsorship team.

The sponsor's representative even called local police to mediate the conflict, according to web reports.

To avoid further controversy, the college implemented a gag order on all involved, keeping the incident under wraps until local media in Hangzhou, where the college is based, leaked it on Saturday.

Zhang says the reports are not true.

"The media can be irresponsible; they can make up stories. Any misinformation can easily sway public opinion," Zhang tweeted on his micro blog on Saturday.

What really happened remains vague, but Zhu denied there had been any physical confrontations.

"No, I definitely didn't do it (hit Sun with a stopwatch)," Zhu told the Liaoning-based Peninsula Moring Post on Saturday.

Asked if the sponsor's representative had affected training, Zhu just simply said, "I never take care of Sun's endorsement affairs."

Zhu led a 14-member team to Yunnan province for altitude training on Saturday but Sun, who told China Daily during the National Championships this month that he would go as well, wasn't on the list.

However, Zhang attributed Sun's absence to health reasons, not the continued tense relationship with his coach.

"Zhu and Sun have indeed had some disagreements, but it's a cold that prevented Sun from joining Zhu's group in Yunnan. He had a fever. So we decided to let him stay and train at the college," Zhang said in a CCTV interview on Saturday evening.

However, the public doesn't seem to buy into Zhang's story about the relationship between Sun and Zhu.

According to a poll on web portal, more than 74 percent of participants (24.061 votes) said "it's impossible for them to reconcile because the dispute has gone too deep".

Sun and Zhu's 10-year partnership started to disintegrate about two months ago.

After winning two gold medals (400m and 1,500m freestyle) at the London Olympics, Sun became a star and began shifting his focus from training to other activities, which concerned Zhu.

The coach also voiced his disapproval of Sun's budding romance with a flight attendant in early February, claiming dating would affect his training.

Sun disagreed and even went as far as to ask the college to replace Zhu, who has been working with him since 2003.

The college punished Sun for the dispute and the violation of team rules, such as sleeping outside the camp. It withheld his stipend for a month and banned him from participating in any commercial activities.

Later, Sun apologized to Zhu and returned to training in March before bagging four gold medals at the National Championships in Henan province, where he vowed to mend his relationship with Zhu.