Chinese swimming legend Sun Yang, who owns three Olympics gold medals having won two in London and one in Rio, is planning to make a comeback to the sport despite being under a four-year doping ban. Initially, he faced an eight-year suspension in 2021 following a positive drug test, but this was reduced to four years after a successful appeal. This ruling prevented him from participating in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and the upcoming Asian Games 2023 which is taking place in his home city of Hangzhou. However, Sun aims to make his return to the Chinese swimming team for the Paris Olympics 2024.
In a conversation on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, Sun opened up about his perspective on his suspension. He stated, “Every stage of life we experience different difficulties and setbacks, and now I have completely let go.” He continued by adding, “It depends how you stand up from difficulties and setbacks. Athletes are most afraid of falling apart, which will lead to a decline in mentality and state. I always tell myself that I must maintain a healthy body and state.”
Sun’s achievements in the sport
Sun Yang is celebrated as the first male swimmer ever to secure Olympic and World Championship golds in every freestyle distance ranging from 200 to 1,500 meters. In fact, he owns the men’s 1,500-meter freestyle world record, clocking in 14 minutes and 31.02 seconds at the London Olympics 2012. In addition, he bagged the gold medal in the 400m freestyle and the silver in the 200m at the same event. Moreover, Sun claimed the 200m gold at the Rio Games four years later and the silver medal in the 400m freestyle.
Controversies in Sun’s career
However, his career has not been without controversy. One of his significant rivals, Australian swimmer Mack Horton, openly refused to share the podium with him at the World Championships 2019 owing to the doping allegations. Although public opinion has been divided since his suspension, with some fans even apologizing to Horton, Sun still commands a dedicated fan base. “Sun Yang will not be knocked down by difficulties. I hope that I can watch your games again in the future!” one fan commented on the Weibo interview.
What Sun Yang said about his future and his wife’s role
During his period of ineligibility, Sun expressed his gratitude for the support from his wife, Chinese gymnast Zhang Doudou. He stated, “She has also gone through more than 20 years of training, and the journey has been very hard.” Sun added, “I said I would persist, and she also supported me without hesitation – she was very sure, without hesitation.”
Regarding his future, Sun is clear about his commitment to the sport. “I have not retired and still insist on swimming training every day,” he revealed. Sun Yang remains optimistic despite his age and stated that at 31, he still has the physical ability to compete for a few more years. He finds inspiration from older athletes in other sports. He said, “A lot of athletes are role models for me, tennis players and NBA players, like [LeBron] James is 38 years old, right, and he can still play very well.”
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