Sports / Swimming

Sun anxious to redeem himself

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-20 07:50

Sun anxious to redeem himself

Sun Yang of China celebrates winning the 200m freestyle on June 3 in Santa Clara, California. Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

Rio offers chance for superstar swimmer to shine

Chinese swimming ace Sun Yang hopes a successful defense of his titles at next month's Rio de Janeiro Olympics will finally purge the controversies that have engulfed him in recent years.

As arguably the most renowned of the 416 Chinese athletes competing in Rio, Sun has endured a rocky ride - including a detention for driving without a license, disputes with his former coach and a doping violation - since winning two gold medals at the 2012 London Games,

Despite the distractions, the 24-year-old has rekindled his ambition to scoop up more gold in Brazil.

"Respect is always earned through hard work ... it's not just given, no matter what you won in the past. I am still young and I am still hungry for more titles," said Sun, who shot to fame after winning the 400m and 1,500m freestyles in London four years ago.

His supremacy in freestyle continued at the World Championships, where he won a combined five gold medals in the 400, 800 and 1,500 in Barcelona 2013 and Kazan 2015, becoming one of the most decorated swimmers in the world.

But the sudden fame proved too overwhelming. Sun was suspended after quarreling with long-term mentor Zhu Zhigen over his romance with an airline stewardess and disputes over engaging in too much commercial activity.

In November 2013, he was ordered to spend a week in detention for driving without a license after being involved in a motor vehicle accident in Hangzhou.

The worst blow came in May 2014 when Sun tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine during the national championship.

The Chinese Swimming Association immediately slapped him with a three-month ban.

After experiencing so many ups and downs, Sun said he has learned how to better manage himself away from the pool.

"I think I've grown more mature; I won't have a second chance to experience the prime of my athletic career, so I am fully investing my time and energy in the pool," he said.

Despite an accidental foot injury he sustained earlier this year and speculation over his signing with an entertainment management agency last month, Sun has banked some solid performances recently.

At a June international meet in in Santa Clara, California, he won the 200m freestyle in one minute, 44.82 seconds - the fastest time in the world this year. He later finished the 400m heat in 3:43.55, the year's second best mark.

Coach Zhang Yadong said Sun will face tough challenges from Australia's Mack Horton and Conor Dwyer of the US in Rio, but experience and confidence could give him an edge.

"No one can be 100 percent sure to win gold at the Olympics, but we don't need to question Sun's ability to do that if everything goes well in training. I have faith in him to win all his events in Rio," said Zhang.

Sun will compete in the 200, 400 and 1,500m freestyle in Rio, where he will join Ning Zetao, men's 100m freestyle world champion, to be the country's best gold medal hopes.

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