Olympic champion Liu Zige "raised the roof of the Jinan Natatorium", Xinhua reported, when she clocked 2:01.81, a world record, in the 200m butterfly at the Chinese National Games. The time marked the 200th world record of the shiny suits era that will come to an end on December 31, 2009. The time transcended shiny suits: it is as fast as Mark Spitz was as he sped towards his destiny with seven gold medals in Munich in 1972.
Liu scorched more than two seconds off the world mark of 2:03.41 set by Australian Jessica Schipper at the Rome World Championships, when Liu was second and became the second woman in a shiny suit to dip below 2:04.
Liu was almost four seconds clear of her arch rival Jiao Liuyang, runner-up of the Beijing Olympics, who posted 2:05.57 for a silver medal. The bronze medal went to Kong Jie from the Chinese Army team who finished 2:05.57.
She was wearing a LZR. So, that means she improved from a 2:09 to a 2:04 in the LZR and has now ripped three more seconds off that - all within 18 months. In the context of norms and even extraordinary moments in swimming history, this one beggars belief.
That said, Liu Zige is described by some leading coaching figures beyond China as having been very well coached - and at home by the same coach for the past 9 years - and as sporting a superb technique (one coach says "the best I have ever seen), while her turns into the wall and reaction at the wall are something to behold. She was out in 58-plus and she believes we have yet to see the best of her.
"I don't think the result today is fast enough for me, and there is still room for me to better the record in the future," Liu told reporters in Jinan. "Every tiny progress could make a new world record, which is very common in the pool." Well, on that score, few could argue. "My performance was satisfactory but not extraordinary compared with that of my 100m butterfly final." That produced a 56.07, a gain of more than 3secs.
That is extraordinary. So too is the 200m gain. As one correspondent notes: Susie O'Neill broke Mary T Meagher's 200m 'fly mark by a slither in 2.05.81 on May 17, 2000. Liu Zige's 2.01.81 marks a 3.2% gain on that standard. That is statistically significant when set against improvements in just about all other events over that period.
World record progression:
Liu forecasts more to come.
Progress Compared: Meagher, O'Neill, Jędrzejczak, Schipper and Liu Zige - age and best time
Mary T Meagher (USA)
Susie O'Neill (AUS)
Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL)
Jessica Schipper (AUS)
Liu Zige (CHN)
*-the use of non-textile bodysuits enhanced performance to a significant degree; such suits will be barred from use in the elite race pool from January 1, 2010.
Elsewhere in Jinan, meanwhile, the 100m free crown went to Huang Shaohua in 48.86, the 200m breaststroke to Ma Xiang in a Chinese record of 2:12.37 and the women's 100m free to Pang Jiaying in 53.98. The 200m breaststroke semis marked another lane 4 appearance for Qi Hui, former world record holder, on 2:24.78.
The Shanghai Men's 4x200 relay broke the Chinese record with a 7.12.22 set by the national team (as opposed to a provincial one). The splits: 1.48.04 (Jiang Hai Qi) 1.47.27 (Dai Jun) - both boys only 17 and coached by Dave Lyles, a British coach based in China, Jiang Ao 1.49.68 and Zhang Zhong Chao 1.47.23.