Tough over­seas train­ing pays off for golden swim­mers

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

Send­ing its best to the West has paid off for China’s na­tional swim­ming team, which has reaped golden per­for­mances at the on­go­ing world cham­pi­onships.

An am­bi­tious pro­gram has sent the coun­try’s elite swim­mers over­seas to train un­der renowned for­eign coaches. The pay­off has been seen since Sun­day with Sun Yang and Xu Ji­ayu bag­ging gold medals at the World Aquat­ics Cham­pi­onships in Hun­gary.

Xu, 22, claimed China’s first men’s 100-me­ter back­stroke world championship gold af­ter clock­ing 52.44 sec in the fi­nal of the sprint event, a phys­i­cally de­mand­ing cat­e­gory long dom­i­nated by West­ern swim­mers, on Tues­day in Bu­dapest.

Sun, China’s only male Olympic cham­pion, won his sec­ond gold at the cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest in the 200-me­ter freestyle af­ter fin­ish­ing in 1:44.39, beat­ing his own Asian record by 0.08. On Sun­day, he struck gold in the 400-me­ter freestyle.

Both swim­mers at­trib­uted their vic­to­ries to the sweat and pain they went through at rig­or­ous and ef­fec­tive over­seas train­ing camps be­fore the bi­en­nial event.

“It wasn’t a big sur­prise for me as I have been im­prov­ing my re­sults step by step through tough train­ing over­seas. It was just a lot of hard work that paid off,” said Xu, who won a sil­ver medal in the same event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

A product of the na­tional elite swim­ming pro­gram, Xu spent four weeks in the United States with his Chi­nese men­tor, Xu Guoyi, af­ter the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­day to train un­der a de­mand­ing regime with four hours in the pool ev­ery day and com­pe­ti­tion against US swim­mers.

At the na­tional trial for

Bu­dapest in April, Xu won the 100-me­ter back­stroke in 51.86, a mark just 0.01 slower than the cur­rent world record, af­ter grow­ing stronger at the US camp.

“The de­tails such as bet­ter pre­race warmup rou­tines, the pace of leg thrash and turn­ing tech­niques are where Xu im­proved ef­fec­tively in US. The in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure and close in­ter­ac­tion with for­eign swim­mers also worked well in eas­ing his anx­i­ety at big- time events,” said coach Xu Guoyi.

As Team China’s top swim­mer, Sun is the most prom­i­nent ex­am­ple of the ben­e­fits of over­seas train­ing. Since 2011, he has kept in close touch with renowned Aus­tralian men­tor De­nis Cot­terell, a for­mer Aus­tralia na­tional coach, and prac­ticed un­der his guid­ance at dif­fer­ent fa­cil­i­ties in Queens­land, a cra­dle of Aus­tralian swim­ming tal­ent, be­fore al­most ev­ery ma­jor event.

Cot­terell’s ex­per­tise in en­hanc­ing stroke ef­fi­ciency and en­durance for long-dis­tance swim­mers helped Sun win 400-me­ter and 1,500me­ter freestyle gold medals at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, fol­lowed by Olympic gold in the 200-me­ter freestyle in Rio.

Be­fore fly­ing to Bu­dapest, Sun spent al­most two months work­ing with Cot­terell in Gold Coast, Queens­land.

"The for­eign en­vi­ron­ment al­lowed you to stay fully fo­cused and the train­ing in­ten­sity there was un­be­liev­able. I even threw up a few times and thought about quit­ting at one point. I am happy I pulled through it and the re­wards are so worth­while," said Sun, who hugged Cot­terell af­ter win­ning the 400-me­ter in Bu­dapest.

Ac­cord­ing to Xu Qi, team leader of Chi­nese na­tional squad, the Chi­nese Swim­ming As­so­ci­a­tion has re­newed agree­ments with for­eign train­ers in­clud­ing Cot­terell to con­tinue send­ing swim­mers over­seas to pre­pare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

STE­FAN WERMUTH / REUTERS

Xu Ji­ayu wins gold

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