China tipped Ye Shiwen to go on to become an Olympic champion by the time she was six-years-old


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The Independent Online

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Ian Thorpe are all well-recognised as talented swimmers. With a huge population, why can’t China have a talent such as Ye Shiwen?

The American John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, described the last 100m of her record-breaking 400m individual medley time on Saturday as “reminiscent of some old East German swimmers”. Ye’s last 100m was 58.68sec, her last 50m was quicker than Lochte’s final 50m as he won the men’s event, while her overall time of time 4:28.43 saw her become the first woman to break a world record since the ban on booster bodysuits in 2010.

Asked about Leonard’s comments, anti-doping chief for China’s General Administration of Sport, Jiang Zhixue, said: “Some people are biased. We never questioned Michael Phelps when he bagged eight gold medals in Beijing.’’

Chinese swimming team manager Xu Qi was equally angry. “We admit Phelps and many swimmers have talents, why can’t China have a talent like Ye, and Sun Yang, and maybe more to come?,” he said.

“Her result was a little bit faster than we thought. It was because she came from behind and had to give her upmost until the last stroke while Lochte saved his energy since he enjoyed a big lead. It’s meaningless to compare Ye with Lochte.”

Ye was tipped to be a talent when she was picked up from a group of six‑year-old kindergarten children. She was noticed by her first coach Wei Wei by her huge hands and feet.

Ye still remembers Wei’s comment of her when she entered the pool in 2002: “You’ll be a world champion and Olympic champion, no doubt!”

Ye improved her skills very fast and learned all four strokes within one year. In October 2008, she attended the National Junior Training Camp along with more than 100 teenager swimmers from all over the country, training together for two months.

Her first big international event was the Asian Games in Guangzhou two years later, when she stormed to victory in 4:33.79. In 2011 she became China’s youngest world champion in 31 years as she won the 200m individual medley in Shanghai. Xu said: “Why doubt and suspect something you’ve never seen in your life? There are many miracles and legends we’ve never seen and never imagined before. It happens all the time.

“The world record is there to be broken. The history is there to be broken. Why can some others break world records and Chinese swimmers cannot? What’s wrong with them? I don’t  understand.

“We respect all the swimmers. There is a saying that oral expressions cannot be taken as evidence. If you want to criticise China Swimming, please show us the evidence, facts, figures and statistics, stop meaningless suspicion and insults.”

Zhou Xin is a sports writer with Xinhua News Agency