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Pace Of Sun Settles At 7:45; Coach Speaks

Apr 4, 2013  - Craig Lord

Double Olympic champion Sun Yang, of Zhejiang Province, took the 800m freestyle in 7:45.60 on day four at China nationals in National Championships in Zhengzhou, settling for a what has become a rare world No 2 slot.

Having taken the 200m and 400m free titles in Zhengzhou with times that lead the 2013 world rankings, Sun, Olympic 400m and 1500m champion, added his third crown in a time down on the 7:43.61 in which 1500m silver medallist at London 2012, Ryan Cochrane won the 800m at Canadian world title trials in Canada less than 12 hours before.

Sun told Xinhua reporters that he was satisfied with the time: "I'm not in my best, but the time was OK. I just swam under my rhythm and I hope I can make better result at the Worlds. Cochrane will be my biggest rival. I have not think about the world record, but I do hope my 400m can be faster."

Behind him today, the minor spoils went to Zhong Guixu, Tianjin, in 8:00.26, and Gao Xuelei, Hebei, on 8:02.37, with the rest of the final finishing between 8:06.09 and 8:13.70.

In other action, double Olympic medley champion Ye Shiwen was another producing dominance for Zheijiang, her freestyle hand shown with a 1:57.54 victory in the 200m a season after that male-counterpart-beating effort in the way home to London 2012 victory over 400IM. The silver went to Shen Duo, Jiangsu, in 1:58.37, bronze to Qiu Yuhan, Liaoning, in 1:58.50, with the last one home for a potential quartet, Guo Junjun, Liaoning, on 1:59.12. Bi Yirong, Zhejiang, clocked 1:59.25 as the last one home inside 2mins.

The winning effort lifted Ye into the all-time China top 10 at No 8, textile only, the 17-year-old's previous best a 1:58.77 from January last year.

Chen Yin, Hebei, pipped Wang Shun, Zhejiang, 1:56.02 to 1:56.70 for the 200m butterfly crown, the bronze going to Wang and Sun's Zhejiang teammate Liu Weijia in 1:57.58, 0.08sec ahead of Shi Feng, Shanghai, with Wang Pudong, Chinese Navy, on 1:57.73, locked long-time China No1 Wu Peng, Zheijiang, out in 1:58.61. 

Chen clocked a 1:54.43 in the semi-final at London 2012 before a 1:55.18 in the final in which Chad le Clos (RSA) pipped Michael Phelps (USA) for victory. Zhejiang's Wang Shun, who was missing from action last year after a 1:46.14best on 200m free in October 2011, has returned with a vengeance: he had no world ranked time in the 200m butterfly. He now finds himself third best in the world so far this season. Liu, 23, broke 2 minutes for the first time in January this year, and moved on apace again today.

There were sharp efforts, too, in the men's 50m breaststroke final, Li Xiayan, Guangzhou Army, getting the touch in 27.89 ahead of Gu Biaorong, Guangdong, on 27.94, the sub-28 podium completed by Wang Shuai, Beijing, on 27.95. Li's best had been a 27.82 from nationals a year ago, while Gu improved for the first time since a 28.14 in 2011 and Wang was just outside a best of 27.91 from last September.

Meanwhile, back to Sun. He is sharper over shorter distance at China nationals this year at the end of a winter disrupted by a row with his coach Zhu Zhigen and shoulder problems. Neither of those showed up yesterday when Sun clocked 1:44.99 in the 200m free, just 0.06sec shy of the effort that granted him joint silver with Korea's Park Taehwan at London 2012, the victor Yannick Agnel championing the 200m for sprinters on 1:43.14.

"I really hope I can compete with Agnel in 200m at the Olympic Games," said Sun after the four-lap blast.

Sun, 21, also timed in at 3:42.93 in the 400m this week and has a 2sec gain on the rest of the world so far this season. Park 's presence at Barcelona 2013 for the defence of his world 400m crown this summer is in doubt after coach Michael Bohl said that he would not attend in favour of finishing his studies. Korean reports say that Park's manager will travel for talks with Bohl on April 16, the swimmer having yet to make a final decision on this summer.

Coach Zhu, meanwhile, won the row and Sun apologised for having called for his mentor's head in the wake of a dispute over commitment, a new girlfriend and time spent away from the waves involved in commercial activities.

Sun was suspended from all commercial activities in February after breaching a "series of team rules". he also had one month's money, training allowance, withheld.

Sun said sorry and resumed training just weeks out from nationals after what Chinese media described as "out of systematic training for two months". His times this week indicate that he cannot have been away from the stuff of fitness for too long.

Zhu confirmed as much when he said: "Actually it was not true to say Sun stopped training at all days before, and he was just very busy and took part in a lot of activities. There was no big deal between us. We are in better relationship after making some communications. Our focus in the year is the Barcelona Worlds and the National Games. Sun is a talented swimmer and I think he will not give up."

Among items on his list of "things to improve on" Sun cited starts and turns, saying: "My start time was almost the slowest at the London Games, and in order to improve my time in 200m, I must do something about it."

On his shoulder problems, Sun, the first Chinese man to win an Olympic swimming crown when he took the 400m title last year, explained: "I am still dealing with my shoulder injuries. I swam about 20,000m a day, so my shoulders are always in bad condition. I was not pretending, the injuries are real."

Day 4 results at a glance:

  • Men
  • 800m freestyle
  • 1. Sun Yang, Zhejiang, 7:45.60
  • 2. Zhong Guixu, Tianjin, 8:00.26
  • 3. Gao Xuelei, Hebei, 8:02.37
  • 50m breaststroke:
  • 1. Li Xiayan, Guangzhou Army, 27.89
  • 2. Gu Biaorong, Guangdong, 27.94
  • 3. Wang Shuai, Beijing, 27.95
  • 200m butterfly
  • 1. Chen Yin, Hebei, 1:56.02 
  • 2. Wang Shun, Zhejiang, 1:56.70
  • 3. Liu Weijia, Zhejiang, 1:57.58
  • 4. Shi Feng, Shanghai, 1:57.66
  • Women
  • 200m freestyle:
  • 1. Ye Shiwen, Zhejiang, 1:57.54
  • 2. Shen Duo, Jiangsu, 1:58.37
  • 3. Qiu Yuhan, Liaoning, 1:58.50
  • 4. Guo Junjun, Liaoning, 1:59.12