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Olympic Spotlight – Swimming
 
 
Tianjin Plus’ countdown to the London Olympics enters its penultimate edition as we take a look at China’s prospects of a medal haul in the swimming pool.
 
An area where China is very well fancied for a sharp improvement on previous years is the swimming pool.
 
Buoyed by a fine performance at the recent Swimming World Championships in Shanghai, the Chinese Swimming Association is looking for a big improvement on Beijing 08’s haul of six medals (one gold, three silver, two bronze).
 
In Shanghai last July, China was the surprise package in front of home fans as they secured a total of 14 medals (five of which were gold) putting Team China second in the final medal standings. The FINA Swimming World Championships are widely-regarded as the second most important swimming meet on the calendar, making China’s strong showing all the more impressive.
 
China now has a stable of top international swimmers. Twenty-five year-old Hangzhou-native Wu Peng ended almost a decade of dominance from legendary American swimmer Michael Phelps last season. Wu defeated the 14-time Olympic champion twice in 2011 ending Phelps’ nine-year, 60-race winning streak. Wu’s battle against the American is set to be one of the pool highlights in London, though Wu has played down his chances of a win.
Another strong medal prospect is women’s 200m individual medley world champion Ye Shiwen. She astounded the swimming world when she landed China’s first swimming gold medal at the World Championships last year aged just 15 years old. She’s being tipped to be at the top of the sport for many years to come, and one year on from her incredible arrival at the top table, she’s the second quickest of 2012 meaning her chances of a medal in London are thought to be high.
 
The jewel in China’s crown, though, is Sun Yang. The 25-year-old’s big moment will come in the men’s 1500m final when he will be a hot favourite to take the gold. Sun finished eighth in Beijing four years ago but will be aiming to continue his fine form in the 1500m after shattering the 10-year-old world record at last year’s World Championships. 
 
Some in swimming have wondered aloud whether too much pressure is being put on Sun by the Chinese media. It seems the youngster is having to grapple immense expectation in the run up to this year’s games, and a couple of slower performances in meetings this year have led to him being the subject of criticism from some sections of the Chinese media.
 
The intense pressure may have been part of the reason why Sun has opted to complete his Olympic training in Australia, away from the intense glare of the Chinese media.
 
Like in so many of the events at the upcoming Olympics, China is expected to register a personal best performance in swimming and will take a very young squad of swimmers out to London with most of them performing at their first Olympic Games. In that regard, the future certainly looks bright for Chinese swimming, but it will be interesting to see if Team China can perform on the biggest stage so early in its development.
 
 
***DID YOU KNOW?***
In 1922, American Johnny Weissmuller became the first person to swim 100m in under a minute. He later went on to Hollywood fame as the star of numerous Tarzan films.
 
***DID YOU KNOW?***
In 1908 the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA) which was the first world swimming association, was formed.
 
***DID YOU KNOW?***
Swimming was first included at the 1896 Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece, and there were four swimming medals contested.

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