Sun Yang and his Australian coach could be forced to part ways.
China's swimming prodigy Sun, who bagged two gold medals, in 400m and 1,500m freestyle at the London Olympics, has been pushed to the verge of a split with his mentor, Australian Dennis Cotterell, after Australia swimming's governing body banned Cotterell from coaching foreign swimmers.
Sun confirmed Cotterell's potential departure, but stressed both wanted to continue working together.
"Yes, this is what happened," Sun said after winning the 200m free at the National Championships on Saturday. "But he still wants to work with me and so do I. We will find out if we can still make it work."
The Australian move was fueled by Swimming Australia which slammed Cotterell and other Australian coaches for lifting China above Australia as a world power in London while also serving with the Australian coaching crew.
Sun started to practice under Cotterell's guidance at the Miami Swimming Club in Queensland in early 2010 and fine tuned his stroke before smashing the decade-long 1,500m freestyle record at the Shanghai Worlds last year.
Another rising star, Ye Shiwen, a double individual medley (200m and 400m) winner in London, also followed in Sun's footsteps by training in Australia with Ken Wood before the Games.
China finished with a record haul of five gold, two silver and three bronze medals in London, following the US as runner-up on the medal tally while Australia grabbed one gold, six silver and three bronze, its worst outcome since the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Sun said he won't give up on his offshore program, which has proven to be a boon for Chinese swimmers, and hopes to return to Australia.
"I think the training methods there have fit me very well. I don't want to change anything or find a new place. I wish I could be able to maintain the cooperation with him and he thinks so," he said of Cotterell.
Not only talent, but also potentially big pay days have enticed Aussie coaches to help the Chinese.
According to reports in Australian media, Cotterell is said to have picked up more than $500,000 after Sun's world-record wins in the 1,500m and 400m freestyle events, although he refuses to confirm it.
Wood was unafraid to point out the benefits of training Chinese swimmers.
"China pays four times what I get from my Australian swimmers. It would frighten you if I told you the amount," he said.