‘Veteran’ Zhao ekes out narrow victory in the 100m backstroke

Chinese star gains confidence boost by winning Olympic event at the worlds

SHANGHAI – At the age of 20, China’s Zhao Jing can be called a swimming veteran as she is competing at her fourth World Championships here.

However, by winning the 100m backstroke on Tuesday night, Zhao, the 50m backstroke reigning world champion, claimed her first gold medal in an Olympic event at the worlds, and that has significantly boosted her confidence for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

“These World Championships are preparation for the London Olympics next year, so I have just focused on the Olympic events,” said Zhao. “Therefore, this gold in the 100m means much more to me than the gold medal in the 50m event. For the London Games, I still have to raise my strength as today I was so lucky to win by 0.01 seconds.”

With Natalie Coughlin of the United States leading for most of the race, Zhao came up to win in the final few meters, clocking 59.05 seconds. Anastasia Zueva of Russia took the silver in 59.06 and Coughlin earned bronze in 59.15.

“The result today is my personal best this year, so it’s encouraging for me,” said Zhao.

“I didn’t pay much attention to my opponents during the race and I just noticed the US swimmer was really fast when I turned back. I was a little worried at that time, but I have prepared for that situation, so I handled it and won.”

The Hubei native drew people’s attention at an early age. At 14, she won the 200m backstroke national title and was selected to join the Chinese squad the following year.

At the 2006 Doha Asian Games, Zhao earned two gold medals, one silver and one bronze. The following year, she finished fourth in the women’s 50m backstroke at the Melbourne World Championships. At the Rome World Championships two years ago, Zhao was crowned world champion in the 50m backstroke while also setting the world record in that event.

She attributed her victory in Shanghai to training in Australia earlier this year.

“After the national trials in April, we went to train in Australia for eight weeks, during which there was nearly no adjustment, just intensive training,” Zhao said. “I almost could not handle it after the first four weeks, so I stopped for a week. The training there helped me a lot.”

In other races, Li Xuanxu finished third in the women’s 1,500m while Ji Liping also won bronze in the women’s 100m breaststroke.

Lotte Friis of Denmark led for most of the race and won the gold medal in the 1,500m in 15:49.59, followed by Kate Ziegler of the US in 15:55.60. Li captured bronze in 15:58.02.

In the 100m breaststroke, Rebecca Soni of the US defended her gold medal at the worlds, leading all the way and finishing in 1:05.05.

Leisel Jones of Australia, the 2008 Olympic champion, took the silver in 1:06.25, followed by Ji in 1:06.52.

Source: China Daily

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