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Chinese are coming, says ‘warrior’ Sun


As a gangly 15-year-old at his first World championships in 2007, Sun Yang asked his mother whether he was fit to drink the “foot-bath water” of Michael Phelps and other swimming greats at the meeting. Less than six years later, the 1,500m freestyle world record holder has no such doubts and stands on the brink of becoming China’s first male Olympic swimming champion.


“I feel like a tough warrior, with shield in hand, I am about to go all out,” Sun thundered in a speech in front of the national swimming team last week. “I am ready, London. We are coming. Chinese men are coming!” Sun will compete in his pet 1,500m event and also the 200 and 400m freestyle at the London Aquatics Centre, searching for Olympic gold to cap his stunning rise. The 1,500 title might seem a shoo-in for Sun, who smashed Australian Grant Hackett’s 10-year-old world record with a time of 14 minutes 34.14 seconds on the way to winning the World championship last year.


Sun was born a 10-pound baby and raised in Hangzhou, an eastern city extolled in Chinese literature for its picturesque lake. His parents took him for a bone test at the age of seven and were told he would grow to 1.93 metres. “With this height, it would look weird if he did not become an athlete,” his mother Yang Ming had said. Entered in the local sports school which produced Luo Xuejuan, the women’s 100 breaststroke champ at the 2004 Games, Sun quickly became a headache for his coach Lou Hongmei. His favourite trick was to push or kick his team-mates into the pool.


Sun’s potential was recognised with a berth on China’s national team in 2006. “Sometimes I swam sixty 200m a day, from 2.30pm to 7.30pm. It was devil’s training,” Sun says. The offshore training has paid off and Sun boasts a washboard stomach to go with his lean 1.98 metre frame, on show in pictures posted on his Chinese microblog for his 7.3 million followers. In the lead-up to the Games, Sun was also awarded the Communist Party membership.


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