|Top: Sun Yang celebrates after winning gold in the men's 1500m freestyle final in world record time during the London 2012 Olympic Games, Aug 4, 2012. Bottom: Ye Shiwen celebrates after winning the women's 200m individual medley final at the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 31, 2012. (Xinhua)|
The year of 2012 was one with a rich harvest for Chinese swimmers, who stunned the world with major breakthroughs at the London Olympic Games.
China registered its best ever Olympic swimming result in London by finishing second overall, only after the United States, with 10 medals, and went on to finish runner-up at the short course world championships in Istanbul.
Chinese swimmers have been on a right track of progress since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where they finished with one gold, three silvers and two bronzes.
At the 2009 Rome worlds, China posted a 4-2-4 record to finish third after the US and Germany. At the 2011 Shanghai worlds, the hosts consolidated their position with a 5-2-7 haul, which was their best result at the world championships since 1994. And the big success at the London Games with a 5-2-3 record marked a new chapter for Chinese swimming.
Sun Yang, 21, and Ye Shiwen, 16, have become two of the most famous swimmers in the world after each clinching two gold medals at the London Games.
Sun, tipped as an Olympic gold hopeful after winning the men's 800m and 1,500m freestyle at the Shanghai worlds, swept two golds, one silver and one bronze in London. All of Sun's four Olympic medals are of historical significance for China.
The 400m freestyle victory over defending champion Park Tae-hwan made Sun the first Chinese male swimmer to win an Olympic gold. The silver from the 200m freestyle was the first Olympic medal for China in the event.
Sun took Team China from fifth to third in his final leg to bring the country the first Olympic relay medal in the men's 4X200 freestyle.
His emphatic win in the final day's 1,500m freestyle, his signature event, marked the first time that Chinese male swimmer set a new world record to claim an Olympic gold.
Sun has already set his sight on next Olympics in Rio. "I will try to defend my titles," he said. "The London Games was just a start. I don't think I have to wait until next Olympics to break the world record again."
The freestyle specialist arrived in Kunming on Dec 11 for a four-week winter training and is planning to go to Australia for a six-week training next February.
Ye Shiwen is the most successful female swimmer in China this year. The young girl stunned the world with two individual medley golds and as many records - a world record and an Olympic record - in her Olympic debut.
The 16-year-old improved the world record in the women's 400m individual medley by more than one second, all the more remarkable as she swam the last 50m in a faster time than US 400m individual medley champion Ryan Lochte.
After winning the 200m IM in Istanbul, Ye became the first Chinese swimmer to win the event in the short course and long course world championships, Olympic Games and the Asian Games.
Other women's swimmers also contributed to China's successes in the pool. World champion Jiao Liuyang, silver medalist in the women's 200m butterfly at the Beijing Olympics, made her dream come true by winning the event in London; Lu Ying, a Shanghai native, bagged a silver in the women's 100m butterfly in London and claimed a gold in the 50m fly in Istanbul; Zhao Jing won the 50m backstroke at Istanbul.
On the men's side, youngster Hao Yun ranked fourth in 400m free and Zhang Fenglin also finished fourth in 200m back in London. Chen Yin booked an Olympic final berth in 200m butterfly.
In the Asian championships that followed the Olympics, China swept 33 out of 38 gold medals on offer.
Then came the short course world championships, in which China bagged three golds, five silvers and three bronzes for the second place overall.
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