SHANGHAI // The swimming world championships ended with a jolt yesterday when the emerging Chinese star Sun Yang broke the oldest world record in the sport - the Australia great Grant Hackett's 10-year-old mark in the 1,500 metres.
Sun was more than two seconds off Hackett's pace with four laps to go, but ignored fatigue and accelerated on the final two laps to finish in 14mins 34.14secs, improving on Hackett's time of 14:34.56 set at the 2001 worlds in Fukuoka, Japan.
"I was not obsessed with the world record before the final, because I wanted to focus on my plan," Sun said. "My goal is to win the gold."
The crowd at the Oriental Sports Centre provided loud support over the final laps, erupting into more joy when the clock stopped four-tenths of a second inside Hackett's time.
It was only the second world record to fall in swimming since hi-tech bodysuits were banned 19 months ago - and Hackett's record had been the only mark to withstand the record deluge during the polyurethane era of 2008 and 2009.
The American all-around star Ryan Lochte set the first world record since the return to textile suits at this meeting on Tuesday in the 200m Individual Medley. The two world records set here were a sharp contrast from the 43 marks that dropped at the last worlds in Rome two years ago.
The 19-year-old Sun also won the 800m free earlier in the meeting, plus a silver in the 400m and a bronze with China's 4x200m relay squad. He is coached by Hackett's former mentor, Dennis Cotterell.
Sun had already come close to Hackett's record when he won at the Asian Games last November in Guangzhou, China, in 14:35.43.
After breaking Hackett's mark, an exhausted Sun celebrated mildly, then bowed to the crowd. Later, nearly all the fans in attendance sang along to the Chinese anthem.
"I still think I have things to improve, especially my mental state," Sun said. "After winning the gold medal, I think more and more people will pay more attention to me.
"There's no doubt I will feel more pressure but I'm still young and I don't want to be burdened by gigantic pressures. So next year, I will keep a relaxed mindset so I can handle future races."
After the race, Sun was congratulated on Sina weibo - China's version of Twitter - by Liu Xiang, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist, a former world record holder in the 110-metre hurdles and a sports hero in China.
"I think Liu Xiang created history in 2004. I watched the Games on TV and after he won the gold medal, I was very excited. I thought someday, I will be like him," Sun said.
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