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1500: Sun Sets On Hackett, 14:34.14 WR

Jul 31, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 8 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Men's 1500m freestyle

The 10-year world-record reign of Grant Hackett (AUS) is over, Sun Yang (CHN) sinking the only men's global standard to survive the shiny suits assault of 2008-09 in 14:34.14, his last 100m a 54.22 stunner. 

The second world record of the meet, after Ryan Lochte's 1:54.00 200m medley, Sun's effort was the first by a Chinese swimmer over 1500m.

The battle for the rest of the podium went to the man in second throughout, Ryan Cochrane (CAN), on 14:44.46, and to Gergo Kis (HUN), who caught Pal Joensen with 200m to go on his way to bronze in 14:45.66, the hero of the Faroe Islands denied this time and doubtless a tad disappointed with the worst of all places, 4th, in 14:46.33.

Sun said: "I was not obsessed with the world record before the final, because I wanted to focus on my plan. My goal is to win the gold. I'm so grateful to the whole Chinese team, including my coach and my parents as well, and I think the world record belongs to all of them. This is a result of all the hard training and preparation I went through in Australia with Denis Cotterell."

"I would have liked to have been closer to that world record today but I was feeling pretty tired by the end of the week," said Cochrane.  ‘"But I showed I have the racing capacity in me and it’s exciting for next year.  Sun Yang has pushed that world record but I don’t think he’s unattainable to beat and that will give me some incentive over the next year."

In fifth, Chad La Tourette (USA) was among those giving thanks for having been in the water when such a special slice of aquatic history had been cut: "That was a fantastic swim and it really just kind of sets him apart as a once-in-a-generation type swimmer like Grant was."

Sun struck from go, with Cochrane and Joensen  the only ones to go with him, the battle strung out across the pool, Sun in 4, Cochrane in 2, Joensen in 7. At 400m, Sun, Cochrane and Joensen in a range from 3:52.73 to 3:54.06. From the 500m mark Sun piled on the pressure, turned at 600m on  5:50.16, Cochrane on 5:51.47, Joensen on 5:52.89. By 750, Sun was almost 2sec up on the Canadian and at 800m the leader flipped over in 7:47.45, compared to a 7:44.47 for Hackett on his way to world-record victory back in 2001. Cochrane was on 7:49.71, Joensen on 7:52.03.

With 300m to go Sun, on 11:42.21 was less than 3sec off the pace of Hackett, with  Cochrane on 11:48.27 and Joensen, on 11:51.53 facing pressure from Gergo Kis (HUN), on 11:52.60.

With 200m remaining, the clock suggested to that Sun might scorch the pad a tad short of Hackett on the clock for the second time in a year. Two laps later, he was still 2.03 sec shy of the pace of 2001. 

Hackett was watching back home in Australia and knew that Sun could pull off a faster finish that he could. Not sure if the 1960 100m free champion John Devitt was watching too Down Under but if he was he might have marvelled at time passing: he held the 100m world record at 54.6 in 1957 before American Stephen Clark took it on in 54.4 in 1961. Sun's last two of 30 laps - 54.22, only 0.7sec or so shy of the time in which the women's 100m crown was won here in Shanghai.

His US teammate Peter Vanderkaay, in 6th, chimed in: "That's a  record there. I heard the crowd get into it the last 100, 200, so I knew he had to be close. That's an amazing swim. I tip my hat to him."

The result:

  • 1. Sun Yang, China, 14:34.14 (WR)
  • 2. Ryan Cochrane, Canada, 14:44.46. 
  • 3. Gergo Kis, Hungary, 14:45.66. 
  • 4. Pal Joensen, Faeroe Islands, 14:46.33. 
  • 5. Chad La Tourette, United States, 14:52.36. 
  • 6. Peter Vanderkaay, United States, 15:00.47. 
  • 7. Samuel Pizzetti, Italy, 15:15.81. 
  • 8. Yohsuke Miyamato, Japan, 15:20.67.

Hackett's reign had lasted precisely 10 years and two days, the Australian having sent shockwaves around the swimming world with a timewarp of a swim back at world titles in Fukuoka 2001.

He was coached by Denis Cotterell - and when in Australia so is Sun. Indeed, the Aussie coach has trained the entire Chinese medal-winning 4x200m free squad that finished ahead of his own nation, a nation that relies on its results for funding. An complex dilemma for the former world No2 swim nation that in Shanghai was overhauled by China, with the US way out front.

The significance of all that is this: in 2001, Hackett was part of a team that defeated the US on gold medal count to win the meet. An historic moment and one that coincided with the end of a doping-soaked era of crisis for China. Since then, Australians appear to have put a deal of energy into helping others get the better of the Dolphins. 

But when such a thought was put to American coach to generations of talent, Eddie Reese, he noted that Man was "put on earth to help each other" so that was the "best thing that you can do". 

The recent background to the battle: Oussama Mellouli (TUN) denied Grant Hackett (AUS) the triple crown at the 2008 Olympic Games and then claimed the 2009 world title in 14:37.28 ahead of Ryan Cochrane (CAN) and Sun Yang (CHN). In 2010, Sun rose to another level:  at the Asian Games in November, he clocked 14:35.43, falling just 0.87sec shy of Hackett's monumental world mark from 2001, the only world record among men to survive the era of non-textile suits banned on January 1, 2010. Cochrane came closest, on 14:49.57 as the only other man inside 14:50 all year. 

The splits:

  • 2001: 54.19; 1:52.45; 2:51.29; 3:50.18; 4:48.82; 5:47.45; 6:45.96; 7:44.47; 8:43.05; 9:41.78; 10:40.56; 11:39.51; 12:38.51; 13:37.89; 14:34.56 WR Grant Hackett (AUS)
  • 2011: 56.25; 1:55.06; 2:53.85; 3:52.73; 4:51.43; 5:50.16; 6:48.81; 7:47.45; 8:46.11; 9:44.98; 10:43.67; 11:42.21; 12:41.16; 13:39.92; 14:34.14 WR Sun Yang (CHN) Shanghai 2011

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits):  14:34.56 Grant Hackett, Fukuoka, July 29, 2001

World-class stats:

  • Fastest: 14:34.56, Grant Hackett (AUS) 2001 
  • World Record wins: Jorg Hoffmann (GER), 1991; Hackett, 2001
  • Title retained: Vladimir Salnikov (URS); Hackett, three times
  • Biggest margin: Hackett beat Graeme Smith (GBR) to silver by 24.38sec with his world record swim in 2001
  • Closest shave: Hoffmann beat a teenage Kieren Perkins (AUS) by 0.22sec in 1991

From the archive:

In 1991, when Jorg Hoffmann (GER) set a world record of 14:50.36, an unknown 19-year-old Australian was just 0.22sec away from him. By Rome 1994 world titles, everyone knew Kieren Perkins, an Olympic champion and a man who had just shattered the world record at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, where he became the first person since 1976 to break two world records in one race: 7:46.00 at 800m and 14:41.66 at 30 laps. In a textile suit, that remains the third best effort ever. Married with three children, Perkins is an official “Australian Living Treasure”. Hoffmann, meanwhile, is a living treasure for the sport too, helping to hone talent for the next generation of German swimmers as a coach and on deck in Shanghai