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China crowns a new pool queen

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-30 09:02
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Zhang Yufei of China powers her way to victory in the women's 200m butterfly final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday. REUTERS

Zhang Yufei spearheads glorious day in the Tokyo pool to revive national swimming team

With a younger generation of talents making their presence felt at Tokyo 2020, China's national swimming program has waved goodbye to its controversial past while ushering in a new dawn full of potential.

Six days into the Olympic meet in Tokyo, a group of youngsters has emerged from the shadow of Sun Yang's four-year ban by winning two gold medals on Thursday at Tokyo Aquatics Center.

Leading the surge was Zhang Yufei, who clocked an Olympic-record 2 minutes 3.86 seconds to win the women's 200-meter butterfly title, well ahead of the United States pair Regan Smith (2:05.30) and Hali Flickinger (2:05.65).

Zhang's immense potential was underlined by the fact that at the age of 23 her winning time is the fastest since compatriot Liu Zige's world record of 2:01.81, which was facilitated by the now-banned sharkskin swimsuit at the 2009 world championships.

Just 80 minutes after her first gold, Zhang suited up for the 4x200m freestyle relay final along with Yang Junxuan, Tang Muhan and Li Bingjie.

To the surprise of the world, the Chinese quartet held off favorites Australia and the United States. Yang's powerful start laid the foundation for victory, with Li's strong final lengths clinching a second gold on a hectic morning in a world-record time of 7:40.33.

The victory made China the only nation after Australia and the US to win gold in the high-profile relay event at the Olympics since its debut at the 1996 Games.

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