China: Relay Focus & A Few Anomalies
Jul 12, 2012 - Craig Lord
The names of China's team of 27 women and 24 men, 51 in all, for London 2012 have been confirmed, with a handful of anomalies in the mix.
With 52 places allowed per team, China's omission of Zhang Lin stands out, along with that of world No3 and China No 2 this season Gong Jie, on 2:05.38 over 200m butterfly in April but having to give way to China No3 this season, Liu Zige, 2008 Olympic champion and world record holder.
World No 3 over 200m butterfly this season and the second fastest in China in 2012, Gong Jie, whose 2:05.38 would have made the Games for any other nation but Liu Zige, 10th on 2:07.37 so far this season, makes the team as reigning Olympic champion and podium placer at the Shanghai 2012 world championships last year. The global crown went to China No1 of the past two years, Olympic silver medallist Jiao Liuyang, 0.04sec ahead of Britain's Ellen Gandy.
Gandy is based in Australia, while Jiao is also based there some of the time. In January, she was to be found clocking 4:10.77 over 400m freestyle at the Miami meet on the Gold Coast. Gong is also No 4 in the 100m in China. The top three in that event all have a place on the team, Jiao and Liu racing in the wake of Lu Ying, on 57.48, at nationals back in April.
Where Liu Zige was able to be well below best at nationals, Zhang was shown no mercy. The first Chinese man ever to win a world title in swimming, over 800m in 2009 after having claimed China's first Olympic swimming medal among men the year before, over 400m freestyle, and the second in history to claim a world record - Zhang was far from being the only one back at nationals in April who was down on his best.
In 2011 at a home world championships in Shanghai, he was the swiftest in the heats of the 4x200m for China at world titles last year and second only to Sun Yang on the clock in the final as China claimed leap-frogged several nations they had never beaten before to claim an historic bronze. He is the only one of the Shanghai relay crew to have been left out of London 2012 action.
Also given an automatic ticket as world champion in 2011 is Zhao Jing, on 59.05 over 100m at Shanghai 2011, and this season managing a best of 1:01.75 so far. Expect her to be somewhat quicker in London. Also selected as 100m backstroke aces are Fu Yuanhui (1996 born and on 59.99 as national champion in April, and silver-medallist and seasoned international Gao Chang.
In 200m, China's season No1, on 2:09.71, Yu Yaping, has no place on the team. Zhao clocked 2:08.86 in semis at world titles last year, while the best in China over the past two years is a 2:08.62 by Zhu Jiani, for whom there is also no place in London. Bai Anqui, who is selected, had a 2011 best of 2:09.75, this year 2:10.05. That left her second at trials, while the No 3 in that race, 1996-born Yao Yige, on 2:10.22, makes the China London 2012 team. She is a 1:02.09 100m swimmer.
There is also no place on the squad for China No1 in the women's 50m free, Yin Fan; Shen Duo, 4th in 100m free at nationals (but no relay place); and Xheng Rongrong, No2 in the women's 200m medley on 2:12.18 at nationals in April. Among men, missing from the list is 200m breaststroke national champion Li Xiang, on 2:11.67 in April but left off the Olympic team, if the published list of names is correct; while the No 3 at nationals is also not among those named, Lai Zhongjian on 2:12.45, 0.25sec ahead of London 2012 team member Huang Yunkun, 100m No2, in April.
The team mystery, Fang Yanqiao, is a mystery no more: just one swimmer of that name listed among the best 300 in any event over the past 20 years. She was born 1989, making her 23 this year. Between 2003 and 2006, aged 14 to 17, she registered the following best times:
She appears in 2007 as a 2:03.98 200m freestyle swimmer, and again in 2009 as a 4:17.60 and 8:41.10, 400/800 swimmer. Her best 800m in 2010 was 8:53.04. She has no time registered in any event in either 2011 or 2012. Yet her name appears on the team roster for the London 2012 Olympic Games. An error? No - a marathon swimmer, in the 10km after qualification in Setubal. A pool swimmer reborn as a 10km prospect.
The team numbers are swelled by China's focus on relays, with eight women in line for the 4x200m freestyle and three possibles for the medley relay in at least three strokes.
The China squad for London 2012: