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Ye's dressing to kill and swimming to thrill

Updated: 2013-04-12 07:33
By Sun Xiaochen ( China Daily)

Chinese swim star's focus remains in pool, and not bright lights

Every young girl loves to dress up and preen in front of a mirror. Chinese swim star Ye Shiwen is no different; she just did it later in life and before a huge audience.

Nominated for the Breakthrough of the Year Award after her sensational performances at the London Olympics, the 17-year-old Ye appeared at the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Brazil last month wearing high heels and a blue evening dress for the first time in her life.

Although the attire differed sharply from her daily outfits of sneakers and sweaters, Ye said she enjoyed her debut red-carpet appearance.

"My first time wearing such a formal dress was at such a grand event. I felt refreshed and it was definitely an eye-opening experience for me," Ye told China Daily at the National Championships last week in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

When she first she started to realize her femininity, Ye soon noticed her wardrobe was more functional than fetching.

"There was the shawl which made me looking much older," said a grinning Ye.

Despite missing out the prestigious award, which was given to British tennis ace Andy Murray for his London Olympic and US Open victories, Ye hailed the Brazil trip as worth the effort despite the loss of time to practice and rest.

"I was honored to be invited to go there. Through this opportunity I saw how foreign sports celebrities cope with the spotlight and socialize with each other. That's what we rarely see in China's sports circle," Ye said.

The Brazil visit was another of those out-of-pool assignments which affected Ye's training and recovery after the London Games, where she won gold medals in 200m and 400m individual medleys.

After seeing the recent controversies swirling around swim star Sun Yang, Ye's coach, Xu Guoyi, hopes his student can remain relatively low-profile after drawing worldwide attention at the 2012 Olympics.

"The Olympic title is a big burden for her at such a young age in terms of all the commercial and media interest coming her way," said Xu, who coached Ye since 2008.

"Only by taking off that big hat can she be a normal athlete and focus on training and improving again."

Inspired by renowned NBA coach Phil Jackson, who put great value on inner-strength by having his players read books that he selected, Xu also presented a book, Di Diao, literally interpreted as "keeping low key" to Ye as a birthday gift last month.

Ye read a couple of pages on her flight to Brazil and said she understood Xu's message was to "keep yourself grounded".

That she is.

Ye didn't accept as many commercial offers or invitations as Sun after the Games. Except for the Brazil trip, Ye has spent most of her time in the team's high-altitude training camp in Yunnan province while Sun struggled through a coaching dispute.

"We turned down many offers (from sponsors)," Xu said. "It (commercial assignment) has to be controlled. Earning money but missing practice ... it's not worth it for an athlete."

"I often tell her that her most beautiful moments are in the pool, not in the limelight or on the stage. That's not where you show your true worth. The swimming pool is your territory."

Xu's philosophy continues to reap rewards as Ye bagged four gold medals at the Zhengzhou meet, including two unexpected titles in 200m events - the freestyle and backstroke.

Boasting an exceptionally strong last-leg freestyle sprint and much-improved backstroke efficiency, Ye showed the potential to dominate in other events apart from her signature medley combo.

"Two medley events are my main focus (at the Worlds). I will try other events in training and lead-up races, but I just take it as extra practice for now," said Ye, who claimed her first world championship title in the 200m IM at the Shanghai Worlds in 2011.


(China Daily 04/12/2013 page23)

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