Shiwen Ye of China celebrates after she set a world record to win the Final of the Women's 400m Individual Medley on Day One of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 28, 2012 in London, England.
Shiwen Ye of China celebrates after she set a world record to win the Final of the Women's 400m Individual Medley on Day One of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 28, 2012 in London, England. Adam Pretty - Getty Images

Fast swim raises a few eyebrows

NOBODY who saw the Amazonian figure of Chinese swimmer Le Jingyi at the 1994 world swimming championships in Rome would forget it.

She burst onto the scene with four gold medals, and backed that up with Olympic gold in Atlanta in the 100m freestyle two years later.

Outside of China, everybody believed the performance, and extraordinary physique, had to be drug assisted.

But while other Chinese swimmers who turned in remarkable performances at the time were later found to be drug cheats, Le never tested positive.

The Chinese won 12 of the 16 gold medals on offer in Rome in 1994, but have never come close to replicating that at a major meet since.

It's fair to say, however, that questions are starting to be asked again after two dominant performances in London.

It was no real surprise that Sun Yang won the men's 400m freestyle. Coached on the Gold Coast by Dennis Cotterill, the man who put the polish on Aussie superfish Grant Hackett, Sun won silver in the same event at last year's world championships before claiming gold in the 800m and 1500m.

But the win by Ye Shiwen in the women's 400m individual medley, in world record time, raised more than a few eyebrows.

Ye swam the final 50m of her freestyle leg in faster time than US star Ryan Lochtie produced to win the men's 400m IM on the same night.

Lochtie told USA Today that Ye's time had been a hot topic of conversation.

"Yeah, we were all talking about that at dinner last night," Lochte said. "It's pretty impressive. I know it was a female. She's fast."

US coach Gregg Troy was asked about the eye-opening split time, and said, "You know what we're getting at. It's difficult to say anything, but it is something we've never seen".

Athletes in London will be drug tested on a scale never before seen. So unless an offence is detected, we just have to believe the Chinese are about to emerge as a legitimate swimming superpower.



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