Ye Shiwen returns to top of podium after London letdown
Ye Shiwen, the Chinese sensation whose mind-boggling performances at the 2012 London Olympics set tongues wagging and fingers pointing, made an overdue return to the top of the podium on Tuesday.
After two years where she struggled to cope with the expectations on her from China as well as the thinly-veiled accusations against her, the 18-year-old turned back the clock to win the women`s 400 metres individual medley gold medal at the Asian Games.
Giving her rivals no chance, she charged away from the blocks at breakneck speed, opening up a big gap on the field.
She was almost a body length clear after the opening butterfly leg and seemingly in a race of her own, trying to beat the world record she set in London.
Ye was under world record pace for the 250m but weakened over the last lap of breaststroke then the final freestyle leg.
Her winning time of four minutes 32.97 seconds was more than 4.5 seconds outside her world record but still more than five seconds ahead of her closest rival.
"I`m satisfied because the result is due to my training," she said.
Two years ago, Ye was on top of the world, having smashed the world record to win the Olympic title.
But instead of basking in glory, the then 16-year-old was forced to fend off questions and insinuations of cheating in a doping row that had no solid basis in fact.
Her accusers highlighted the fact that she completed her last lap faster than the men`s winner Ryan Lochte, even though her overall time was much slower.
And they also raised China`s patchy track record in swimming, when the world`s most populated country was accused of systemic doping after a spate of cases in the 1990s.
A child prodigy from an ordinary background in Hangzhou, Ye had already been on the national team for four years and won the 200m gold medal at the world championships the previous year.
She never failed a doping test and backed up her performance by winning the 200m Olympic title but that did not stop the accusers.
A year later, the pressure on Ye began to tell and she struggled at the world championships in Barcelona, failing to win any medals.
But, now enrolled as a law student in one of China`s top universities and enjoying her training again, she says she is finally getting back to her best.
"After winning the London Olympics, I felt lots of pressure. I know the expectation of my supporters was high," said Ye.
"So I was distracted in my races and could not do well (even though) I performed really well in training."