Sun rises

Swim­mer leads China’s as­sault at cham­pi­onships in Hun­gary

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

China’s Sun Yang, the en­fant ter­ri­ble of com­pet­i­tive swim­ming, is set to un­dergo an­other test of his frag­ile tem­per­a­ment at the world cham­pi­onships af­ter a tur­bu­lent 2016 Rio Olympics.

Like­wise, there will be nowhere for Joseph School­ing to hide in Bu­dapest this month af­ter he stunned Michael Phelps to win Sin­ga­pore’s first-ever Olympic gold last year.

Once called a bad boy, Sun spear­heads China’s as­sault and will be look­ing to ex­act re­venge af­ter Aus­tralian Mack Hor­ton robbed the hulk­ing Chi­nese star of his Olympic 400 me­ters freestyle in Brazil.

Emo­tions boiled over af­ter a pul­sat­ing fi­nal in Brazil when Hor­ton branded Sun a “drug cheat” — a ref­er­ence to a three-month dop­ing ban his ri­val served for tak­ing a banned stim­u­lant Sun said was for a heart is­sue.

The pair traded in­sults, trig­ger­ing a row with Chi­nese me­dia, be­fore Sun bounced back to win gold in the 200m.

Ex­pect sparks to fly again in Bu­dapest with Sun and Hor­ton set to lock horns in the 200m and 400m, as well as the 800m and 1,500m freestyle — events Sun has dom­i­nated in re­cent years.

“As cap­tain of the Chi­nese swim­ming team, I need to shoul­der more re­spon­si­bil­ity,” the mul­ti­ple Olympic and world cham­pion told Xin­hua news agency.

“I must en­cour­age my team­mates, help them steady their mood and lead them to make break­throughs in the world cham­pi­onships.”

A no­table ab­sen­tee for China is Ning Ze­tao, who is not in the Hun­gar­ian cap­i­tal to de­fend his 100m freestyle world crown, cit­ing an ab­dom­i­nal in­jury af­ter fail­ing to make the grade in qual­i­fy­ing.

Fir­ing line

Xu Ji­ayu will com­pete, how­ever, af­ter tak­ing Olympic sil­ver in the 100m back­stroke be­hind Amer­i­can Ryan Mur­phy.

School­ing’s stun­ning Rio vic­tory over Olympic le­gend Phelps — who dead-heated for sil­ver with Chad le Clos and Las­zlo Cseh — in the 100m but­ter­fly fi­nal puts him firmly in the fir­ing line in Bu­dapest.

But the 22-year-old clocked 50.96 sec­onds in Austin, Texas ear­lier this month, just 0.09 off Amer­i­can Caeleb Dres­sel’s world-lead­ing mark, to sug­gest he could be peak­ing at just the right time again.

“Caeleb has the fastest time this year but I am not go­ing to let any­one take that top spot from me,” School­ing told re­porters.

With Phelps end­ing his sto­ried ca­reer in Rio, Ja­pan’s Ko­suke Hagino has been tipped to take over as the world’s premier med­ley swim­mer.

The 22-year-old won gold in the 400m med­ley in Rio but was beaten by the Amer­i­can in the 200m fi­nal.

Whether or not he can con­vert Olympic gold and sil­ver into dou­ble gold in Bu­dapest could de­pend on coun­try­man Daiya Seto, who has had Hagino’s num­ber in re­cent do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tions.

Seto, who took bronze in Rio over 400m, is chas­ing a hat-trick of world ti­tles in the longer med­ley af­ter cap­tur­ing gold in Barcelona and Kazan.

Ja­panese school­girl Rikako Ikee, a five-event na­tional cham­pion, is an­other name to watch in the freestyle and but­ter­fly.

ZHU HONGYE / XIN­HUA

The pres­sure will be on 25-year-old Chi­nese swim­ming gi­ant Sun Yang, pic­tured train­ing on Aus­tralia’s Gold Coast last month, when he again locks horn with Aus­tralian Mack Hor­ton in the men’s 400m freestyle at the World Aquat­ics Cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest on Sun­day. Sun lost to Hor­ton in the event at the Rio Olympics but bounced back to win gold in the 200m.

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