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Only Thorpe To Go On Sun's Trail: 3:41.48

Apr 5, 2011  - Craig Lord

Chinese swimmers gave warning with efforts ranging from the blistering to the storming in world-title-hope events on day 4 at Chinese national championships in Wuhan today: Sun Yang on 3:41.48 in the 400m free for second-best ever in textile after Ian Thorpe, Liu Zige on 57.39 (2011 world No2) in the 100m butterfly and Zhao Jing on 59.91 (2011 world No3) in the 100m backstroke, while three women's 4x200m quartets swam within a range of 7:58.71 and 8:01.

Race reports

Men's 400m freestyle

Sun Yang (Zhejiang and coached by Denis Cotterell in Australia) rose to fifth on the all-time ranking ahead of Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan (KOR) with a 3:41.48 victory. Only Ian Thorpe (AUS), in a black adidas bodysuit, has ever swum faster while decked in textile. Sun's effort fell a frustrating 0.13sec shy of the Chinese and Asian record held by Zhang Lin, 800m world champion from 2009.

Since last year, Sun has stepped up to a faster initial speed: over the first 100m he was precisely a second quicker in Wuhan than he was on the way to silver behind Park at the Asian Games in November. That also left him more than a second slower at the back-end, the difference with two splits in the middle around 0.5sec faster than in Wuhan, where Sun aped Thorpe's 2002 pattern more closely than ever, the splits practically identical until the last 100m, when Sun could not yet match the size 17 propulsion of the Australian now on the comeback trail for the 100 and 200m.

The splits compared

  • Sun 2011:        53.58; 1:49.78 (56.20); 2:45.92 (56.14); 3:41.48 (55.56)
  • Park 2010:       53.80; 1:49.49 (55.69); 2:46.33 (56.84); 3:41.53 (55.20) 
  • Sun 2010:        54.58; 1:51.34 (56.76); 2:48.10 (56.76) 3:42.47 (54.37)
  • Thorpe 2002:   53.02; 1:49.57 (56.55); 2:45.43 (55.86); 3:40.08 (54.65)

In Guangzhou, Sun had Park to chase. In Wuhan there was no-one in sight. The silver in Wuhan went to Dai Jun (Shanghai) on 3:50.61, the bronze to Zhong Guixu (Tianjin), in 3:52.48.

The all-time top 6:

  • 3:40.07 Biedermann 2009
  • 3:40.08 Thorpe 2002 textile bodysuit
  • 3:41.11 Mellouli 2009
  • 3:41.35 Zhang 2009
  • 3:41.48 Sun 2011 textile
  • 3:41.53 Park 2010 textile

Textile top 6:

  • 3:40.08 Thorpe 2002
  • 3:41.48 Sun 2011
  • 3:41.53 Park 2010
  • 3:42.51 Hackett 2001
  • 3:43.40 Rosolino 2000
  • 3:43.80 Perkins 1994

A list that shows the ahead-of-time nature of Kieren Perkin's 1994 effort at the world championships in Rome 1994 

The best 10 performances in textile suit

  • 3:40.08 Thorpe 
  • 3:40.17 Thorpe
  • 3:40.54 Thorpe
  • 3:40.59 Thorpe
  • 3:40.76 Thorpe
  • 3:41.33 Thorpe
  • 3:41.48 Sun 
  • 3:41.53 Park 
  • 3:41.71 Thorpe
  • 3:41.83 Thorpe

Thorpe is on the comeback trail but his plans do not include the 400m.

Women's 100m butterfly

Olympic 200m champion and world record holder Liu Zige (Shanghai) nestled into second-best in the world this year on 57.39, the 57.25 of Alicia Coutts at Australia trials in Sydney the only effort ahead. The silver in Wuhan went to Lu Ying (Shanghai), on 58.14, the bronze to Liu Lan (Chinese Army), on 58.21. 

While Liu's best is an other-wordly 56.07 from the China Games in October 2009 as the shiny suit era was drawing to a close before a January 1, 2010 ban on such booster kit, Lu's lifetime best from the same year, 58.36, is behind her, while Liu Lan, 17, improved from a 2009 best of 58.88 and leaps from 18th on the all-time China list to 9th.

In textile, the top 6 from China now reads:

  • 57.39 Liu Zige 2011
  • 57.67 Jiao Liuyang 2010
  • 58.14 Lu Ying 2011
  • 58.20 Zhou Yafei 2007
  • 58.21 Liu Lan 2011
  • 58.38 Liu Limin 1994

Back in 1994, the China programme was in crisis, as seven swimmers tested positive for steroids in one batch at an airport in Japan on the way to the Asian Games that year.

Women's 100m backstroke

World s/c champion Zhao Jing (Hubei) clocked 59.91 to keep arch-rival Gao Chang (Shandong) at bay by just 0.04sec, the bronze going to Liao Yali (Hunan) in 1:00.60. 

Zhao was Asian Games champion on 58.94 last November to rise to the helm of the 2010 world rankings, while Gao's season best was a 59.69 effort at nationals a year ago. Liao's effort was a lifetime best, her 2010 peak a 1:01.11, after 1:00.99 in 2009.

The only other sub-minute swims so far this year are the 59.55 of Belinda Hocking at Australian trials, the unrested 59.56 of 15-year-old Melissa Franklin (USA) last month and the 59.91 of Aya Terakawa in Japan in February.

Men's 100m butterfly

Chen Weiwu (Shandong) took the crown in 53.17, 0.02sec ahead of Chen Yin (Heibei), 53.19, the bronze going to Zhang Qibin (Shandong), on 53.28. Those times do not enter the world top 10 this year. The top two are almost on the same times as their season best times of 2010, while Zhang, 16, raced well inside his previous lifetime best of 54.33 from last August.

Men's 200m individual medley

Wang Shun (Zhejiang) took the crown in 1:59.50, 0.22sec inside his 2010 best as the only Chinese man in textile suit ever to break the 2-minute mark. The silver medallist, in 2:01.05, Yang Zhixian (Hunan), may the same athlete as China's record holder Zhang Zishan, on 2:01.88 last year after 1:58.53 in 2009 (certainly there is no swimmer of precisely that name registered in the medley world rankings for China in the past 20 years. The bronze in Wuhan today went to 200m backstroke champion  and national record holder, 17-year-old Zhang Fenglin (Shandong), on 2:01.18, after a 2:02.54 best last year. 

Women's 50m breaststroke

Zhang Hongtao (Chinese Navy) clocked 31.21 to take the title 0.08sec ahead of Ji Liping (Shanghai), the bronze to Liu Xiaoyu (Liaoning) in 31.35. Zhang's 2010 best was a 31.52, while Ji's was 31.31 and Liu's was 31.66. The champion's effort is second-best in the world so far this year, behind the 31.06 of Sweden's Rebecca Ejdervik at Canadian nationals last week.

Women's 4x200m freestyle relay

China has the fastest three times in the world this year, the top two the only two non-national teams to race below 8mins since the return to textile-only suits on January 1,2010. Zhejiang took the crown in 7:58.71 ahead of Shanghai, on 7:59.95, and Beijing, on 8:01.00. Chinese relays, national and provincial boast 8 entries in the list of the best 30 times ever swum.