TOKYO (Reuters) – From being just a “kid” at the London Olympics, Wang Shun emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Tokyo after winning the 200m individual medley on Friday to secure China’s first men’s swimming gold of the Games.
The 27-year-old failed to advance past the heats in London before winning bronze in Rio and standing on top of the podium in Tokyo.
Wang powered to the finish to touch in 1:55.00, just ahead of Britain’s Duncan Scott and Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland, then straddled the lane marker in the pool with his arms outstretched in celebration.
“I was just a kid at the London Olympics. When I was in Rio I wanted to compete with my team mates. This time I just wanted to focus on myself,” he said.
“I can’t believe I swam 1:55.00 but I did it. There is a special sense of mission in Tokyo.
“It is the gold medal for everyone’s efforts. Our (China’s) mission is very important.”
Wang said the Games’ one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not have too much of an impact on his training and he thanked his home country for providing the facilities and environment for a successful Olympic campaign.
A big fan of U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, Wang also had words of praise for his coach Zhu Zhigen and his support team.
When asked about comments made by American Ryan Murphy who said Friday’s 200m backstroke final was “probably not clean”, Wang said: “Chinese athletes are always against doping and we adopt zero tolerance policy toward that.”
China’s swimming programme was put under the microscope again after triple Olympic champion Sun Yang was handed a four-year ban for doping violations in June.
The programme’s reputation was tarnished by a series of doping cases in the 1990s but Beijing has since pledged to weed out drug cheats and the Chinese Swimming Association has regularly stated its opposition to the use of banned substances.
Chinese media lauded Wang’s performance, which comes after Zhang Yufei won two gold medals in the space of an hour on Thursday.
“Wang Shun used his own hard work to rectify the name of Chinese men in swimming … moreover Wang broke the 17-year monopoly of American players in this event,” wrote China’s Sina news.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Peter Rutherford)