Sports / Swimming

Ning places China's flag atop the sprinting podium at worlds

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-08-07 08:21

Ning places China's flag atop the sprinting podium at worlds

Ning Zetao of China reacts after winning the men's 100m freestyle final at the Aquatics World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Aug 6, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

KAZAN, Russia - Standing on the highest step of the podium after winning swimming's signature race, Ning Zetao clutched his warmup suit by his chest where there was an image of the Chinese flag and thrust it upward.

And before he even got out of the pool he did the same thing with his swim cap.

The message was clear: China, already dominant with Sun Yang in the distance races, can sprint now, too.

Ning surprised a depleted field to win the 100-meter freestyle at the world championships in 47.84 seconds on Thursday.

Pre-race favorite Cameron McEvoy of Australia touched second in 47.95, and Federico Grabich of Argentina was third in 48.12.

The 22-year-old Ning became the first man from Asia to win a medal of any color in the 100 free at the worlds.

"It is a dream of Asia, of China, to get gold medals in sprint distances," Ning said through a translator.

Ning swept the 50 and 100 freestyle titles at last year's Asian Games, becoming the first Asian swimmer to break the 48-second barrier. He entered this meet with the second-best qualifying time of 47.70, and has his first world title a year before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He's a member of the Chinese Navy.

"I will have more confidence to prepare for Rio," Ning said. "I know it's true that it could be a slight change in my life and that I could be in the focus of the public. That is my life - changing."

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