Cham­pion’s goal

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Swim­mer Sun Yang plans to tweak his tech­nique to stay on top

With the global swim­ming spot­light fo­cused on the July 14-30 FINA World Cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, China’s Sun Yang is con­cen­trat­ing on a more minute goal.

The 25-year-old, who has won Olympic gold medals in the 200-, 400- and 1,500m freestyle, is tweak­ing his start tech­nique to gain a tiny but crit­i­cal edge in speed.

Nearly a per­fect swim­mer in terms of stroke ef­fi­ciency and dis­tance en­durance, Sun re­al­ized his rel­a­tively slow start­ing pro­ce­dure — off the block to first stroke — could be fine­tuned for greater per­for­mance.

“I am used to en­ter­ing the wa­ter slowly and try­ing to catch up from be­hind over the first half of the course. It’s a waste of strength. If I can just start as quickly as most of my op­po­nents, I sure could swim faster and fin­ish strong,” Sun said in a re­cent China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion in­ter­view.

If the new tech­nique works as well as Sun ex­pects, the tiny im­prove­ment within an al­ready small mar­gin of less than a sec­ond could help him main­tain dom­i­nance in the 200m and 400m, and per­haps make him a de­cent sprint can­di­date for the 100m.

At the April Na­tional Cham­pi­onships, which served as a trial for the worlds, Sun won all five freestyle events, from 100m to 1,500m, demon­strat­ing his as­ton­ish­ing po­ten­tial at all dis­tances. His times of 1:44.91 in the 200 and 3:42.16 in the 400 are the world’s best marks so far this year.

Still, Sun won’t push too hard in Bu­dapest as he signed up to com­pete in four in­di­vid­ual events, ex­pect­ing to de­fend his ti­tles in the 400 and 800 while try­ing to win the 200 for the first time at the worlds.

“Hope­fully, the small change will play a huge role at the world cham­pi­onships. I am in great shape and pretty con­fi­dent now,” said Sun, who has been train­ing with Aus­tralian coach De­nis Cot­terell in Hong Kong since re­turn­ing from an in­tense camp in Bris­bane in late June.

Hope­fully, the small change will play a huge role at the world cham­pi­onships. I am in great shape and pretty con­fi­dent.”

Sun Yang, China’s top swim­mer

Sun will meet tough chal­lenges from Mack Hor­ton of Aus­tralia and South Ko­rea’s vet­eran Park Tae-Hwan in the 400, and from Ital­ian dis­tance swim­mer Gre­go­rio Pal­trinieri, win­ner of 1,500 in Rio, in the longer events.

To­gether with Sun’s former Chi­nese men­tor Zhu Zhi­gen, Cot­terell helped the Zhe­jiang na­tive sur­prise the world in 2012 by win­ning the 400 and 1,500 at the Lon­don Olympics, mak­ing him China’s first male swim­mer to cap­ture Olympic gold.

Sun has since dom­i­nated mid­dle and long-dis­tance freestyle, high­lighted by five ti­tles he won from 400 to 1,500 at the worlds in 2013 and 2015.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sun won the 200 for the first time at a ma­jor event and fin­ished sec­ond to Hor­ton in the 400 fi­nal.

With the In­ter­na­tional Olympics Com­mit­tee adding the 800m freestyle to the men’s pro­gram at Tokyo 2020, Sun is mo­ti­vated to try to be­come the first swim­mer to win four Olympic dis­ci­plines from 200 to 1,500m.

“That’s a huge mo­ti­va­tion. It will be of great sig­nif­i­cance if I can win the 800m at its Olympic de­but in Tokyo,” said Sun.

“The ad­just­ment of my start­ing tech­nique is part of my prepa­ra­tion for that higher goal. I hope I can test it at big events like the worlds and then hone it to per­fec­tion with more in­ten­sity in train­ing lead­ing up to Tokyo.

“It’s good tim­ing at the start of an­other Olympic cir­cle to make changes for some­thing big­ger in the fu­ture.”

XIA YIFANG / XIN­HUA

China’s Olympic and world cham­pion Sun Yang shoul­ders the bur­den to win hon­ors in the up­com­ing FINA World Cham­pi­onships in Hun­gary.

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