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Li Xuanxu Makes Grade At 13

May 21, 2007  - Craig Lord

It is is 15 years since Li Lin broke Ute Geweniger's world record over 200m medley on a 2:11. These days it takes a 2:14.90 to win the China spring national title. No slight on the winner: she is 13-year-old Li Xuanxu.

In Shunde, south China, Li, of Guangdong, stole the show by racing 0.37sec inside Olympic qualifying time. Just behind her was a girl not that much older, Zhao Jing from Hubei province, on 2:14.96.

The 100m breaststroke went to another champion in her early teens, Wang Qun, of Shandong, on 1:09.02, slower than she swam at 12 but sharp nonetheless for her age. Second was Sun Ye, of Shanghai, on 1:09.49, with the more experienced Luo Nan, of Liaoning, on 1:10.10.

It is hard to believe that, with so many teenagers pushing standards that rival or better those who raced for China in Melbourne 2007, the vast majority of the host nation's squad in Beijing 2008 will come from those who represented the People in the Pool at the last world long-course championships before the Olympic Games. Yet that is what China has promised as it seeks to convince the world that the doping-drenched days of the 1990s are well and truly over.

Among men, Zhang Lin, of Beijing, just managed to hold on for the win over 1,500m, his 15:14.34, 0.05sec ahead of Sun Yang, of Zhejiang, on 15:14.39, with Zu Lijun, of Jiangsu, third on 15:21.10. None made the grade for Beijing 2008, but interesting to note that a little over 18 months ago, 150th place on the world rankings stood at 15:50 and that the silver and bronze medal winners in Shunde were nowhere to be found on that list.

Pang Jiaying, of Shanghai, took the 100m freestyle on 55.11 seconds, Zhao Jing, of Hubei, the 100m backstroke, on 1:01.19, ahead of Xutian Longzi, of the Chinese Army, on 1:01.26, and Yang Jieqiao, of Tianjin, clocked 8:26.38 to win the 800m freestyle.

Among men, 18-year-old Liu Weijia, of Liaoning, edged out Zhao Tao, of the Chinese Navy, over 200m medley, the title his 2:01.57 to 2:01.94. At 16, Wang Bo, of the Chinese Army team, clocked 2:03. A little over two years on, he finished third in Shunde on 2:05.06.

Chen Zuo, of Beijing, took the 100m freestyle in 50.01, ahead of Huang Shaohua, of Guangxi, on 50.55, with Cai Li, of Zhejiang, third on 50.60.

At the end of events in Shunde, one China record fell - in 2:15.27 to Lai Zhongjian, of the Chinese Navy, over 200m breaststroke - while 21 competitors achieved the Olympic qualifying standard in 15 races. Those swimmers are not, however, assured a place at the Games as yet, China having slated a number of events as qualifications rounds, and the final team in the hands of an Olympic selection committee.