INCHEON (AFP) – Ye Shiwen, the Chinese superstar who sent shockwaves through women’s swimming at the 2012 London Olympics, fired a warning to those who had written her off by completing an Asian Games double on Friday.
A superlative swim in the 200 metres individual medley signalled Ye’s return following a long period in the doldrums — a result of anxiety brought on by the pressure which came after smashing a world record on the biggest stage of all, at just 16.
“It’s true that I’ve been a little bit slower since London,” Ye told reporters after emulating her feat as a schoolgirl at the Guangzhou Games four years ago.
“My performance today wasn’t bad but I was intending to swim a bit faster,” she added, after clocking two minutes, 8.94 seconds, some way short of her Asian record of 2:07.57.
Ye faced widespread insinuations of doping after her heroics at the Olympics, having rocketed through the final lap of her eye-popping 400m victory quicker than men’s winner Ryan Lochte.
After shattering the world record in the 400m in London, Ye proved it was no fluke by winning the 200m. But her Olympic success proved a poisoned chalice and questions swirled over the legality of Ye’s jaw-dropping speed.
Detractors pointed to China’s dark past, particularly the 1990s when dozens of swimmers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and the country was accused of systematic doping.
“There was some pressure after London, yes, but it has improved through hard training,” said Ye. “I’m getting closer to my best again.”
Ye was no flash in the pan. She begun swimming at the age of six in her hometown of Hangzhou after her kindergarten teacher noticed she had large hands and feet, making the national team at just 12.
Four years later in Shanghai, she won a world title in 200m medley. Then came London’s soaring highs – and its gut-wrenching lows. Still suffering from her Olympic hangover, Ye flopped at last year’s world championships in Barcelona.
But she insisted her problems were behind her.