Liu Lifeline Swells Olympic Defence List
Jun 28, 2012 - Craig Lord
All eyes are on the action here in Omaha this week but over in China they just selected 51 swimmers for an Olympic team that looks set to go without 400m free silver medallist Zhang Lin, in Beijing the first Chinese man ever to win an Olympic swim medal, but with Liu Zige despite the fact that the 200m butterfly champion of a home Games in 2008 is ranked third in her nation over 100m and 200m this season.
On 2:05.18 and 2:05.38 respectively, world champion Jiao Liuyang and Gong Jie are China's top two, while in the 100m efforts of 57.48 for Lu Ying and 57.80 for Jiao top Liu's best this season. It is believed that Liu will defend her 200m crown.
If so, that would leave the solo defending champions roster at 18 campaigns, four swims pending in Omaha and four Olympic crowns that will certainly sit on a new head in London this summer.
Vice-President of the China Swimming Association Shang Xiutang revealed the numbers selected this week, though the precise details of who will swim what have yet to filter through in English.
According to Shang, the 51 swimmers include Liu Zige, world 1500m champion and record holder Sun Yang, world 200m butterfly champion Jiao Liuyang, backstroke ace Zhao Jing and 200m 'fly ace Wu Peng.
The entries are all but closed but Shang did not exactly slam the door in Zhang's face, telling Chinese media: "There is only slim hope for Zhang Lin to go to the Olympic Games. We feel sorry for him. He is a very good swimmer and had won glory at the Beijing Olympic Games."
Zhang followed up his historic 400m free silver in Beijing with a pioneering gold and world record in 800m freestyle at the Rome 2009 world titles marked by shiny suits. He was the first Chinese man in 49 years to set a world swimming record.
This year, Zhang missed the FINA A standard at nationals but he may be given a last-minute reprieve if he is considered to be a worthy alternative for a 4x200m freestyle squad in with a chance of making the podium after taking a stunning bronze at world titles last year.
"We hope we can win a medal in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay, so we must make sure every swimmer in our team is on good form," Shang said. "It's hard decision to leave Zhang Lin out, and that's why we spend so much time deciding the squad."
Olympic Title Defences: the story so far:
Both Coughlin and Trickett took extended breaks from the sport between 2008 and 2012.
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