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Sun, Ning both send signals

By Ma Chi in Tianjin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-06 07:59

Tianjin triumphs spur national swimming icons

Sun Yang is looking forward to more glory on the world stage after dominating in the pool at the 13th Chinese National Games.

The 25-year-old Olympic and world champion from Zhejiang province clinched gold in the men's 800m freestyle on Monday in Tianjin, pulling away from other finalists over the last 200 meters en route to clocking 7 min 46.80 sec - six seconds faster than runner-up Ji Xinjie from Shandong province.

"I had a cold and was feeling pretty tired. It was a tough test for me to prepare for the Games after such a short interval from the worlds. But no matter how hard it is, I have to overcome the difficulties," said Sun.

 Sun, Ning both send signals

Sun Yang, who represents Zhejiang province, celebrates after winning the men's 4x200m freestyle at the National Games in Tianjin on Monday. Xinhua

Monday's gold medal was Sun's fourth at these Games, to go along with victories in the 200m free, 400m free and 4X200m free relay.

Sun rose to stardom at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai when he grabbed gold medals in the 800m and 1500m free. In 2012, he became China's first male swimmer to win Olympic gold by capturing the 400m and 1500m titles at the London Games.

Last year, he complemented his distance collection by taking gold in the 200m free at the Rio Olympics.

Now 25, Sun was the oldest swimmer in Monday's final.

"Over the past few years I have seen off several batches of opponents. I think it is the perseverance that has kept me going forward," said Sun.

"In the future, I hope to break the limit of age and strive to extend my peak performance for a longer period."

With the 800m freestyle set to become a new event at the 2020 Tokyo Games, Sun, who has won three world championships at that distance, is looking to collect more Olympic gold.

"I am looking forward to the 2020 Olympic Games. I hope I can keep pushing myself forward and show people the perseverance of Chinese swimmers," he said.

"It is challenging to simultaneously compete in multiple events. I will spend more time training for the 800 while continuing to work on other distances. I am expecting more breakthroughs."

Sun is also going for gold in the 1500m free and mixed 4X100m medley relay at the National Games.

Before Sun shone on Monday night, spectators at Tianjin's Olympic Aquatics Center roared with excitement for another star, Ning Zetao.

Ning has been struggling with his form over the past two years, but the Henan native came back strong, clinching gold in the 100m freestyle in 47.92 sec - this year's sixth-fastest time - to edge second-place Yu Hexin by 0.71.

"Four years ago, I competed here representing China for the first time at the East Asian Games. Since then, I have experienced a lot and have turned from a boy into a man," said the 24-year-old Ning, who rose to fame at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 when he broke the Asia record in the final of the men's 100m.

At the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, he became the first Asian to win the 100m free - a distance that had been dominated by western swimmers for decades.

That victory made him an idol among Chinese fans and won him a lot of commercial activities, but he was later dropped from the national team and accused of being involved in endorsements without permission from the sport's governing body.

Ning slumped at last year's Rio Olympics, finishing 12th in the 100m free and 30th in the 50m free.

 Sun, Ning both send signals

Ning Zetao, who swims for Henan province, salutes fans after his victory in the 100m freestyle.

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