Rome 2009, Day 5
4x200m free final
Fifteen years after the Chinese heaped shame on Rome and swimming, four Chinese women - Yu Yang, Qianwei Zhu, Jing Liu and Jiaying Pang - wearing Jaked01 suits that aid speed and buoyancy, raced legally to a crushing world-record victory in the 4x200m free. The time: 7:42.08
Silver went to the US in 7:42.56 and bronze to Britain in 7:45.51, a European record.
The irony of the 29th world record falling - to match the all-time record of records set in Montreal 1976 - by China in Rome will have been lost on few who look at the 1994 and FINA and 2009 and FINA and see parallel behaviour that we hoped had been left behind.
Back in 1994, there was not a single Chinese swim from a dominant group of women that did not fall under a cloud of suspicion of a doping nature. It was systematic and it was widespread. There were more than 40 positive drugs tests in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the head coach was up to his eyeballs in mischief and abuse.
FINA denied there was a problem. It learned its lesson. On suits, FINA denied there was a problem. It is still learning its lessons and one big one is this: do not delay any further. Kill the beast. January 1, 2010. Get it done.
Notes from the Rome race:
The 7:50.09 in which the USA set a world record for victory in Melbourne 2007 would have finished ... nowhere in Rome. All eight teams swam inside 7:50. That's eight teams racing 1.5sec per swimer , at least, faster than the fastest quartet from the GDR ever did. What's that, you say the GDR is from the Dark Ages. Well, let's see: the 7:55.47 at which the East Germans held the world record from 1987 to 2004 had slipped to 4th by the time 2008 dawned. It is now 14th, and 11 of the best 15 ever times were set today in Rome.
Here's the new all-time top 10, with 8 entries all from events in Rome today:
Meanwhile, China has changed. Somethings remain the same but the national team is not set in its ways. If it believes that responding to events if the key to success, then little wonder that the Chinese quartet broke a contractual obligation to Speedo, China's new sponsor, and wore the Jaked01 non-textile suit that has been on the frontline of suits wars this year.
Just before the relay, Zhao Jing and Gao Chang had also worn Jaked01 suits to claim gold and bronze respectively in the 50m backstroke, either side of Daniela Samulski, of Germany.
Controversy then surrounded the medal ceremonies of the two events. Gao did not go to get her bronze. Instead, relay swimmer Qianwei Zhu appeared on the podium. Gao then joined the fun for the deckside walk of triumph, before Qianwei Zhu stepped up to receive a second medal.
Very odd. Things like that happened back in 1994 too, at a time of darkness. We trust that there is light in the camp these days. Communication and access remains difficult and that is unhealthy.