Young swimmers’ rise to prominence boosts China’s dominance in pool

The emerging younger generation of Chinese swimmers have contributed massively to China’s swimming dominance at the Asian Games, as the national swimming team brought their gold medal tally on Monday to 11.

A most outstanding breakthrough came from Pan Zhanle, a 19-year-old freestyle sprint specialist. The young man crushed it with a new lifetime best of 46.97 seconds to take the gold medal in the men’s 100 meters freestyle on Sunday.

But Pan remained unsatisfied with the breakthrough. 

“I felt my performance was mediocre. I was aiming to break the world record before the race,” Pan told reporters after the race. “The Asian record doesn’t feel like anything extraordinary. This is something I should get. It’s a bit disappointing that I missed it by only 0.11 seconds.”

Pan’s performance has set a new Asian record, making him the first Asian swimmer to finish 100 meters under the 47-second barrier and the fifth-fastest swimmer in the discipline in history. Previously his personal best was at 47.22 seconds produced at this year’s Chinese Championships.

The world record remains at the 46.86 seconds Romania’s David Popovici put on the books at the 2022 European Championships.

Pan told the Global Times that the secret behind his triumph lies in the everyday training during which he has paid close attention to improving his flip turns.

“The last two months I have put a lot of effort into improving my jump start and flip turns,” Pan told the Global Times. “Communication with the coach is very important,” he said, before noting he will continue to strive toward the goal of breaking the world record in the future. 

Standing next to Pan on the men’s 100 meters freestyle podium was 18-year-old Wang Haoyu. Speaking of his performance of 48.02 seconds, 1.05 seconds behind Pan’s achievement, Wang said nervousness at the Asian Games thwarted him from attaining a better performance.

“I was a little nervous. It’s impossible not to be [as it’s my first Asian Games]. It was slightly below my expectations,” Wang told reporters. “I got on the podium, but the result could have been better. I still need to fight in the events to come.”

Female breaststroker Tang Qianting, 19, also set up a new Chinese national standard and Asian record in the women’s 50 meters breaststroke.

Firing off a time of 29.92 seconds in the heat, she not only produced the sole outing of the field under the 30-second barrier, but it represented a shiny new lifetime best for the teen and her first-ever foray under the threshold.

Tang’s previous career quickest record was 30.08 seconds she logged at this year’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. 

Monday night also saw 18-year-old Chinese swimmer Yu Yiting win the women’s 200 meters individual relay in 2:07.75, setting up a new Asian Games record and outperforming veteran teammate and 2012 Olympic champion Ye Shiwen. 

Yang Junxuan, 21, has also played a key role in securing the women’s 4×100 meters freestyle relay gold medal 

Besides the young swimmers, already crowned world champions Zhang Yufei and Qin Haiyang remain the marquee names in the swimming squad. 

Having publicly announced that she is aiming for the Asian Games MVP award, Zhang told the Global Times that the biggest challenge in achieving the goal is the short-distance sprints.

The previous Asian Games female MVP award winner was Rikako Ikee of Japan who won six gold and two silver medals in eight competitions when she participated in the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018. 

Zhang, who anchored the Chinese women’s 4×100 meters freestyle relay to victory following her 200 meters butterfly title, said she wants to win seven gold medals in Hangzhou.

“I’m hoping to get seven gold medals here. And I feel confident about it. Let’s take it one step at a time,” she told reporters. 

Breaststroke world champion Qin Haiyang lowered the Asian Games record in men’s 100 meters breaststroke to 57.76 seconds to win his first gold medal at the Hangzhou Games. 

The triple world champion has set his sights on setting up a new 50 meters world record, after he crushed Adam Peaty’s 200 meters world record in the worlds. 

“The world record I want to break the most is the 50 meters,” Qin told reporters. 

“It’s an event that I feel more confident in, and I’ve also been putting more effort into training for this one.”

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