Olympic Swimming 2012: Has China's Diving Dominance Translated to Swimming?

Marques EversollAnalyst IAugust 3, 2012

Sun has been stellar for the Chinese this summer in London.
Sun has been stellar for the Chinese this summer in London.Clive Rose/Getty Images

China has historically enjoyed success in the pool, as it has been the center of the diving world for some time.

Four years ago in Beijing, the Chinese won seven of the eight gold medals in diving. China's diving dominance has continued through the London Games, having won all four gold medals in both the men's and women's competitions.

But the emergence of the Chinese in swimming has extended their pool prominence to a point it hadn't reached before.

In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China's lone gold medal in swimming was tied for seventh.

After winning six total medals and just one gold in 2008, the Chinese swimmers have totaled nine medals this summer in London--four gold, two silver and three bronze. Although the United States has dominated swimming competition with 23 total medals thus far, China is tied with Japan at No. 2 in the medal count with nine.

Although it's taken a total team effort for the Chinese to materialize as one of the best swimming countries in the world, much of the credit goes to China's two multiple-medal winners—Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen.

Ye, 16, won two gold medals in London. However, she has been the subject of some recent controversy, as Ye was called out by U.S. coach and executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association John Leonard after she shaved five seconds off her previous personal best in the 400-meter individual medley.

Her time of 4:28.43 is a new world record, but given the fact that her last lap of 28.93 seconds was quicker than that of American Ryan Lochte--the men's champion in the same event--obvious questions were raised about whether or not she had been using banned substances.

Nonetheless, the 16-year-old was a phenom in London, and her Olympic career appears to be just getting started, making the Chinese a serious threat to the swimming world in the future.

In men's competition, Sun has fared much better in London than he did four years ago in Beijing. In 2008, Sun placed eighth in the 1,500-meter freestyle at 15:05.12.

But that was when Sun was just a 16-year-old inexperienced swimmer. Fast forward four years, and Sun is a seasoned vet, challenging the best swimmers on the planet for gold medals.

Sun has already won three medals--a gold, a silver and a bronze. Sun will have a great opportunity to win another gold medal on Saturday, as his time in the semifinals of 14:43.25 in the 1,500-meter freestyle was a full three seconds better than anyone else in the competition.

Nine other Chinese swimmers—Jiao Liuyang, Lu Ying, Tang Yi, Dai Jun, Hao Yun, Jiang Haiqi, Li Yunqi, Lu Zhiwu and Li Xuanxu—have earned medals in London, but the future of swimming in China rests solely on the strong shoulders of Sun, for the men, and Ye, on the women's side.

Regardless of where the Olympics have taken place, Americans have owned the pool. But with the recent evolution of Chinese swimming, the U.S. could face some serious competition in the near future.