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Li Xuanxu, 13, Clocks 4:38 400m Medley

May 17, 2007  - Craig Lord

She is just 13 but Li Xuanxu is one of the 20 per cent of Chinese swimmers who will make the Beijing Games next year at home without ever having swum in a world championships after a stunning 4:38.54sec effort at the spring nationals in Shunde, south China.

She led Yu Xin, on 4:40.99, and Zhang Chen, on 4:42.01. Li was third and fourth respectively after butterfly and backstroke but surged on breaststroke.

A native of Hunan province, Li hails from the Guangdong team. She said: "My personal best was 4:48.25 last year." At 12. Amazing. Impossible, some might say. "The result is unexpected because my backstroke was not good. It's my first national title."

At 1.60m in height, tiny Li revealed: "Since May in 2003, my teammates and I started to train in early morning. We feel comfortable for the morning finals format, which is being tested for the first time in China before Beijing Olympic Games." That means that she has been being prepared for national-team status since she was nine.

"I've never dreamed about 2008 Olympics. It's too far away from me. I'm lacking in power and speed. I'm yet to compete at world level," said Li, whose father is a former football player.

In other finals, Zhao Jing from Hubei crowned in the women's 200m backstroke in 2:11.55, while Zhang Lin stormed in the men's 200m freestyle in 1:48.45. Ouyang Kunpeng won the men's 200m back stroke in 2:00.42 and Shanghai women's quartet snatched gold in the 4X100m freestyle relay in 3:47.11.

Zhang Lin, of Beijing, took the 200m fresstyle crown, on 1:48.45, ahead of Zhang Enjian, of Wu Han, on 1:49.59.