China all smiles but Miley is left in the wake

Two golds and a world record for hosts of the last Olympics sink hopes of an early British medal

It was an evening that opened to the sound of the 'Star-Spangled Banner' echoing around the London Aquatics Centre but it was a night that belonged to China, emphatically so. In less than half an hour two stunning swims produced two Chinese gold medals and already they have doubled the total they managed in home waters four years ago.

First Sun Yang, a swimming superstar in the making, claimed an utterly dominant victory in the 400m freestyle and then, minutes later, 16-year-old Ye Shiwen shattered the world record with an even more remarkable success in the 400m individual medley.

Ye left the American favourite Elizabeth Beisel trailing in her wake over the last 50 metres. The sheer strength of the Chinese swimmer shattered the field – Hannah Miley, carrying Britain's hope of a first home medal, could not compete and finished fifth, nearly six seconds adrift. The bronze went to China, too, through 18-year-old Li Xuanxu.

Ye had set the fastest time of the year in the morning heats amid a growing sense that China could become the story of the pool in London. Before last night they had a historic total of seven golds – they won six medals of all colours in 2008 – but theirs is a strident ambition to improve in sports beyond their traditional strengths and in the pool it is coming to fruition.

Yang destroyed the field in the 400m freestyle to claim the first gold medal China's men have ever won in the pool. The 20-year-old was under intense pressure to deliver in London; in the build-up to the Games his membership of the Communist Party was hurried through. He is the world record-holder at 1500m – breaking Grant Hackett's 10-year-old mark at last year's World Championships – and looks set to dominate the middle and long-distance events.

In Beijing before departing for London, Yang climbed on to a table at a team meeting and yelled: "We are coming – London, Chinese men are coming." His confidence was not misplaced, but his facts were wrong – the women are here too.

The 6ft 6in Yang eased away from Korea's Park Tae-hwan early on and the defending champion never looked like closing the gap. Yang finished in an Olympic record time having threatened to break another world record for much of the race.

That record was not long delayed. Ye, who took up swimming at the suggestion of a primary school teacher who noticed she had extremely large hands for her age, had finished fifth at last year's World Championships but has improved spectacularly since then in the most gruelling event in the pool. And the biggest worry for her rivals is that the 400m is not her specialist event – she is world champion in the 200m IM. There will be more Chinese medals to come.

Beisel had seemed to have the race under control but could not handle Ye's brutal acceleration over the final length. She touched in 4min 28.23sec, more than a second inside the record set by Stephanie Rice in Beijing.

Miley was never in contention. She started slowly and was sixth at the halfway stage. She used her strong breaststroke to regain some ground but, like the rest of field, could do nothing about Ye's power. The 22-year-old Scot, who was ranked third in the world going into the Games, broke down in tears. But it was Rice who summed it up best. A double Olympic gold medallist in Beijing, she came sixth last night. "Oh my god, it was so tough," she said.

Britain's Ellen Gandy qualified seventh fastest for tonight's final of the 100m butterfly. The Australian-based 20-year-old finished fifth in her heat behind the dominant Dana Vollmer of the USA. The 100m is Gandy's weaker event – she is a world silver medallist at the 200m fly – but she cut half a second off her morning time to reach a first Olympic final.

Fran Halsall failed to make the final. The 22-year-old faded over the second 50 metres to finish seventh in her semi-final. Halsall later produced a stirring second leg of the 4x100m relay to help Britain finish a creditable fifth. It bodes well for Halsall later in the week. Australia took the gold, the Dutch silver and the USA bronze to give Missy Franklin the first of a possible seven medals.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss