China’s golden tiger adds to leg­end by whip­ping Aussie ri­val in 400m fi­nal

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

BU­DAPEST — China’s Sun Yang was gra­cious fol­low­ing his 400m freestyle vic­tory at the World Aquat­ics Cham­pi­onships on Sun­day as he took re­venge over Olympic cham­pion Mack Hor­ton of Aus­tralia.

Sun clocked 3 min­utes 41.38 sec­onds, fin­ish­ing 2.47 sec ahead of sec­ond-place Hor­ton, who had pre­vi­ously dubbed his ri­val a dope cheat prior to beat­ing the Chi­nese su­per­star at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Italy’s Gabriele Detti clocked 2.55sec to win bronze as Sun dom­i­nated the Bu­dapest fi­nal, build­ing on his com­mand­ing lead at the half­way point.

Hor­ton had taunted Sun again be­fore the Bu­dapest race, say­ing it was “a ri­valry be­tween clean ath­letes and those who have tested pos­i­tive”.

He was re­fer­ring to Sun’s three-month ban in 2014 for tak­ing a stim­u­lant.

How­ever, Sun en­joyed sweet re­venge at the Duna Arena and gave a tri­umphant shout when he touched the wall first.

But de­spite tak­ing re­venge af­ter his long-stand­ing war of words with Hor­ton, Sun was gra­cious to­wards his ri­val.

“A long time has passed since Rio, we both got stressed, we both calmed down,” said Sun.

“I made a re­newed ef­fort in my train­ing, es­pe­cially in the last six months.

“I be­lieve in this event, I will keep do­ing bet­ter and bet­ter ... and so will he.”

Sun’s vic­tory means he now has eight world gold medals span­ning four cham­pi­onships, dat­ing back to Shang­hai in 2011.

He has now won the 400m world ti­tle at each of the past three cham­pi­onships af­ter his tri­umphs at Barcelona 2013 and Kazan 2015.

Hav­ing had to eat hum­ble pie, Hor­ton said his time in the 400m fi­nal was more painful than the ac­tual de­feat.

“I thought I would have been faster; the time stings more than los­ing,” said the 21-year-old.

“I thought I was ca­pa­ble of more tonight, I tried to be stronger in the front part of the race.”

Sun could fin­ish with four golds in Bu­dapest, with the 200m, 800m and 1500m freestyle races still to come.

Record bid

“It’s too early to say,” said Sun, 25, when asked if he was tar­get­ing four golds, but said he fears none of his ri­vals.

“There’s not much about my com­peti­tors that I am afraid of — it doesn’t make much sense to be afraid.

“I am not afraid of los­ing. If you lose, that’s just some­thing you have to deal with.

“I don’t get anx­ious any­more about the com­pe­ti­tion, it’s not some­thing you have to take to heart.”

Sun’s win­ning time was 1.31 sec be­hind Paul Bie­der­mann’s world record — set at the 2009 worlds dur­ing the era when the now-banned neo­prene suits were used.

The Chi­nese star said he is work­ing to­wards low­er­ing the eight-year-old record — one of the few that still stands from that era.

“It is a re­ally long process,” he said.

“It’s all about train­ing stepby-step and keep pur­su­ing my­self to get bet­ter in the 400m freestyle.

A long time has passed since Rio, we both got stressed, we both calmed down ... I will keep do­ing bet­ter and bet­ter and so will he.” Sun Yang

“I keep look­ing out for new ways to en­hance my per­for­mance, I am sat­is­fied with my progress.

“I’ ll keep do­ing more train­ing, I think this is the way to break a world record.”

Credit to coaches

“I didn’t re­al­ize I could win in such a dom­i­nant way,” added Sun. “My ri­vals didn’t race badly to­day, but I swam bet­ter this time.”

Sun cred­ited the re­sult to his work with coaches Zheng Kun­liang and De­nis Cot­terell.

“My coaches have been work­ing so hard to help me to im­prove,” said Sun, who even cried out dur­ing some par­tic- ularly tense train­ing ses­sions.

“A few days ago, I even wanted to give up and dis­ap­pear dur­ing train­ing. But then I thought about my coaches. I need to re­spect them and I want to meet their stan­dards.

“When I worked it out, I made progress.”

Cot­terell, an Aus­tralian, said he was pleased with Sun’s per­for­mance on Sun­day evening.

“He is a great ath­lete. No mat­ter what I say at the mo­ment, when the time comes for them to get on the block, they have to be the in­di­vid­u­als.

“When it comes to the race, it’s the mo­ment of truth.”

Cot­terell added he un­der­stood the pres­sure Sun was un­der.

“Yes­ter­day we had a good talk about how to re­duce the pres­sure,” said the coach.

“The whole na­tion, friends, try­ing to please the coach, for a num­ber of rea­sons. But we have to make sure you don’t take it as pres­sure.

“You try to see it as a sup­port that can lift you up, and in­spire. Oth­er­wise it goes an­other way. It’s very easy for all that sup­port to be­come pres­sure. I’m just so pleased that he ex­e­cuted the per­fect race.”

MICHAEL SOHN / AP

China's Sun Yang cel­e­brates win­ning the gold medal in the men's 400m freestyle fi­nal at the World Aquat­ics Cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest on Sun­day. It was Sun’s third straight gold in the event.

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