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Karin Helmstaedt


China sent teams to all eight of the World Cup meets this year, although the most any one swimmer attended was three.

"Some of our swimmers might have a chance at winning a category," said National Coach Zhang Xiong, "but with only three meets it will be difficult. Many of the other countries will attend four or more."

Zhang emphasized the overall youth of his team this year and said that the World Cup is the perfect opportunity for the younger, keener swimmers to gain valuable international experience.

"Many of the Olympians have taken time off, and they may be slower to get back into it," he continued. "This (1997) World Cup season is better than usual for the younger swimmers because they are sharper and they can rise to the challenge of racing Olympians and other international-calibre swimmers."

Zhang was very pleased with his swimmers' results in Hong Kong and Beijing. He maintains that many of the Chinese swimmers in Atlanta were not ready for the level of the competition, and that their time will come at the next Olympics. There is a lot of work to be done, and much of that work will be done "training through" successive, high-level competitions.

"The World Cup is great for that," he said. "The focus for us at these meets is really the competition."

To say the Chinese women did well by the exposure would be an understatement. The first world record was swum by Xue Han in the 50 breaststroke in Glasgow (30.88), and she bettered it yet again in Gelsenkirchen (30.77). Butterflyer Limin Liu was impressive in the 100 (58.42) and 200 (2:06.85), and IM star Yan Chen dominated the 200 and 400 at every meet she attended, managing to tie for second place in the overall category.

World and Olympic champion Jingyi Le, China, won one gold and two silvers.
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Finally, Bin Lu made her comeback to international competition after two years of training through a drug suspension.

Zhao Ge, coach of Limin Liu, was pleased not only with the Chinese performances, but also with the quality of the meets. "These meets are great experiences," he said in Glasgow, "and we'd like to see more World Cup legs in Asia. That would help us a lot."

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