x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Chinese swimmer Sun shines brightest in Dubai

Swimmer eases to record in 200m at Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex.

Sun Yang, the Chinese swimmer, won the 200m freestyle in Dubai last night at the Asian Swimming Championships.
Sun Yang, the Chinese swimmer, won the 200m freestyle in Dubai last night at the Asian Swimming Championships.

DUBAI // Sun Yang, the dual Olympic gold medallist, broke the first record of the Asian Swimming Championships in Dubai last night, as the opening day of competition turned in to a Chinese exhibition.

The powerhouse nation of swimming in Asia claimed eight of the first 10 gold medals on offer at the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex.

The outstanding performance - albeit the most predictable, too - came from Sun, who is still adjusting to life as one of the most high-profile figures in Chinese sport following his medal haul at London 2012.

Given that the stakes are significantly lower than the last time he raced in serious competition, Sun might have been forgiven for struggling for motivation this weekend.

His times were understandably down on his summer peak, as he predicted they would be on the eve of competition here.

However, inspired by the chance to swim at a facility which he deems "even better than the Olympic Games Aquatics Centre", he delivered a new championship record in winning the men's 200 metres freestyle.

Sun, who is coached by the former coach of the Australian great Grant Hackett, clipped over three seconds off the previous best as he finished in one minute, 45.49 seconds.

His personal gold rush is unlikely to end there. Over the course of today and tomorrow, Sun goes in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle events - the two disciplines in which he took gold at the Olympics four months ago.

The Chinese monopoly on medals on the opening night was only broken twice.

Chang Gyu-cheol of South Korea finished first in the 100m butterfly, and Japan's Hiroko Makino won the women's 400m individual medley.

Although they fell some way short of the podium, the UAE's representatives had reasons to be cheerful on day one of their home event.

Mubarak Salem, the breaststroke specialist who was the country's lone swimming entrant to London 2012, was the only Emirati to make an individual final in the evening.

The 24-year-old swimmer from Al Wasl club qualified eighth fastest from the heats of the 50m breaststroke.

He then broke his own national record in finishing in sixth place in 29.29 seconds the final.

"This is the best I have done in Asia and it feels like a good start for me," Salem said.

"Looking to next year I know I can improve on this. Although I'm happy now, I will try to do better than this."

Salem's feat in exceeding the expectations on him also inspired the national team's 4x100m medley relay team in their final less than an hour later.

With Salem taking the second leg, they also took sixth. Obaid Al Jasmi, the team's senior swimmer, said: "We saw what he did and we wanted to copy him, or do even better than him.

"We have been faster than this in the past but we have to be happy with the result because we have two or three people injured and our preparation hasn't been the best."

Although the rest of the national team laboured in their individual morning heats, there was significant success for another Dubai-based competitor.

Lianna Swan, a 15-year-old Jumeirah College pupil, delivered on her aim of breaking the Pakistan national records - and with interest.

The Bahrain-born teenager shaved eight seconds off her country's 400m individual medley record, which was set just four months ago in London.

She also took half a second off Pakistan's 100m freestyle record, which has stood since 2006, as she finished in one minute, 03.52 seconds.