Sun scorches rivals to win historic Asian Games swim title
Chinese battering ram Sun Yang smashed his rivals to create history Monday as the swimming goliath scooped the first-ever Asian Games men’s 800 metres freestyle gold with another monstrous performance.
For once though he didn’t have it all his own way.
Greeted like a rock star by high-pitched squeals from excitable female fans in Jakarta, the three-time Olympic champion returned to the pool expecting to anchor China to victory in the 4x200m free — only for the pesky Japanese to tear up the script.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Olympic hope Rikako Ikee picked up her second and third Asian titles in the women’s 50m butterfly and 100m freestyle.
But it was the talismanic Sun who sprinkled stardust on proceedings as ever, storming to victory in the 800m free in a Games record of seven minutes, 48.36 seconds — almost five seconds clear of Japan’s Shogo Takeda.
He also came agonisingly close to completing a relay fightback.
But Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto clung on to seal a fingertip upset in 7:05.17 and dash Sun’s hopes of winning five gold medals in Indonesia.
China and Japan finished day two of the six-day meet neck and neck on seven gold medals.
Sun, who powered to the 200m title at the weekend, uncoiled his rippling two-metre frame to pull away over the second half of the 800m, leaving Takeda and Vietnam’s Nguyen Huy Hoang flailing in his wake.
“That gives me confidence for 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” Sun told reporters.
“It was a pity we lost the relay but Japan swam a great race. Two finals in one night isn’t a problem for me but I can still work on my endurance for sure.”
– Ikee double –
Ikee crushed it in the 50m fly, breezing to victory in a Games best of 25.55 — almost half a second clear of China’s Wang Yichun.
The 18-year-old, who has become the new face of swimming in Japan, is expected to be a force in the 100m free and 100m fly at the 2020 Olympics in her home city.
And after setting a new meet best in the 100m free in helping Japan win the weekend’s 4x100m relay, Ikee ducked under the record again in the individual race, touching in 53.27 after a brave fight from China’s Zhu Menghui.
“I achieved what I came to do tonight so I’m delighted,” said Ikee. “The plan was to conserve energy in the first half of the race and finish strong — that’s exactly what happened.”
Defending champion Kosuke Hagino was stunned by China’s Wang Shun in the men’s 200m individual medley.
Wang caught his Japanese rival over the last leg of freestyle to win in 1:56.52 as Hagino clocked 1:56.75.
“I’m delighted,” said Wang. “It gives me confidence to beat such a great swimmer.”
However, there were some late crumbs of comfort for Olympic silver medallist Hagino, who swam a superb third leg in the 4x200m relay.
“I kind of cramped up in the medley,” he admitted. “There just wasn’t enough in the tank.”
Former world champion Kanako Watanabe kept Japan in touch with medal-topping China by retaining her 200m breaststroke title in 2:23.05, producing a sinew-shredding late spurt to edge China’s Yu Jingyao.