Ye Shiwen’s world-record performance Saturday in the women’s Olympic 400-metre individual medley remained a hot topic Monday, only talk seemed to be shifting away from the race itself.
After the 16-year-old Chinese athlete shaved more than one second off the world mark when she stopped the clock in four minutes 28.43 seconds, the executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association sounded suspicious in calling Ye’s effort “unbelievable.”
“We want to be very careful about calling it doping,” John Leonard, who doubles as executive director of the USA Swimming Coaches Association, said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper at the London Games.
“The one thing I will say is that history in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I will put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable,’ history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved.
“That last 100 metres was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers, for people who have been around a while.”
Ye came on in the second half of Saturday’s race, eclipsing Australian Stephanie Rice’s world record time of 4:29.45 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Ye’s performance was so impressive it drew comparisons to the weekend performance of American swimmer Ryan Lochte. The two-time 400 IM world champion clocked 29.10 seconds in his last 50 metres during Saturday’s victory in the men’s race, a time bested by Ye (28.93).
Ryan Atkinson, a biomechanist with Canadian Sport Centre Pacific, cautioned fans in a Globe and Mail story to look at the entirety of both races and each swimmer’s strategy when drawing a comparison.
He pointed out Lochte went out fast, and “definitely slowed down towards the end,” Anderson said.
Ye’s dominance continued Monday when she posted the fastest time in the 200m heats, the event she ruled on home soil at the 2011 world championships in Shanghai.
Ye, who started swimming at age 6, points to hard work when discussing her success.
“I’m very lucky,” she said. “Training is not very hard for me because I’ve been trained since childhood. We have a very good scientific-based training. That’s why we’re so good.”
Between 1990 and 2000, Chinese swimmers failed 40 drug tests.
In June, Li Zhesi, one of Ye’s former teammates, tested positive for the blood-boosting agent EPO.