China have rubber-stamped their status as swimming newest superpower at the world championships, showcasing a clutch of young stars who look set to make a big impression at next year’s Olympics Led by teenagers Sun Yang, who grabbed his first world title in the 800m freestyle on Wednesday, and Ye Shiwen, who won the 200m women’s individual medley, the host nation is on an upward curve.
At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, China picked up just one gold in the pool, but improved a year later at the Rome world championships to four gold’s and third place in the medals table.
And at the halfway point in Shanghai, China already have three gold medals, just one fewer than leaders the United States, with the promise of more to come over the final weekend.
Sun, 19, powered his way to victory in the 800m to the delight of the Chinese crowd, following his silver in the 400m, and is a hot favourite for the 1500m on the last night of action.
On Sunday, he is expected to mount a serious challenge to the 2001 world record set by Australia’s Grant Hackett after missing out on the mark by less than a second at last year’s Asian Games in Guangzhou.
“I’m delighted because it’s my first world title,” said Sun, who threw his victory garland into the crowd and high-fived supporters after his win.
“I failed to win the gold in the 400m race, so I’ve done a lot of prep work for the 800m. It’s my personal best in this event. The victory gave me more confidence ahead of the remaining races and next year’s London Olympics.”
Another of China’s top names is 15 year-old prodigy ye, who put in a stunning freestyle leg to win the women’s 200m individual medley ahead of the world and Olympic title-holders.
Following her win ye, who won 200m and 400m gold at last year’s Asian Games and silver in both events at the world short course championships, insisted she still had “much room for improvement”.