Amazing swimming times queried by top world coach
ONE OF the most respected figures in world swimming has questioned the sensational times posted by 16-year-old Chinese competitor Ye Shiwen over the past three days in London.
John Leonard, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, described Ye’s performance in the 400 metres individual medley final, when she won gold with a world record time of four minutes 28.43 seconds, as “disturbing”.
“We want to be very careful about calling it doping.
“The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something – and I will put quotation marks around this – ‘unbelievable’, history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved,” Leonard said.
He said the questions raised by Ye’s staggeringly fast time recalled the atmosphere when the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith – now Michelle de Bruin – stunned rivals at the 1996 games in Atlanta.
“That last 100m was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while. It was reminiscent of 400m individual medley by a young Irish woman in Atlanta.”
Last night, she set a new Olympic record as she won the women’s 200m individual medley semi-final with a time of 2:09.39. The achievement drew guarded comment from her competitors.
“I just have to concentrate on my own race,” said Caitlin Leverenz, the American who swam in the lane next to Ye and finished third. “The Chinese have had a history with doping, so it’s not crazy to point the finger, but it’s not my job.”
Stephanie Rice, who held the record until last night, smiled when asked if she thought Ye could improve on that time in tonight’s final. “Probably. I have no idea what she is capable of.”
The emergence of China as the new force in world swimming presents a major threat to the traditional dominance of the Americans. Sun Yang became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold medal in the 400m freestyle final on Saturday. But it is the ease with which the Chinese schoolgirl has dominated her rivals that has caused disquiet.
Ye remained calm in the face of growing media scrutiny, blinking into camera lights last night as she promised to try to maintain her form. “I will just carry on and try my best to win in the final.” If she does, the whispers will grow louder.