LONDON – China’s Sun Yang survived a scare at the start to blow away his rivals in world record time for the men’s 1500m freestyle gold medal at the Olympics on Saturday.
Sun, 20, was under world record pace for the 30 laps to hit the wall in 14min 31.02sec, bettering his own mark of 14:34.14 when he broke Grant Hackett’s iconic 10-year record at last year’s Shanghai world championships.
The result was never in doubt as he surged away from the field to have 8.61sec to spare over Canadian silver medallist Ryan Cochrane with defending champion Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia taking bronze.
“In the last 50m, it wasn’t about the record, it was about getting the gold,” Sun said.
“I really cried at the finish line, because I was so scared of a false start and I was so happy and relieved to have finished the race.
“I still had something left in the tank and there is something still left to go. From the Beijing Olympics four years ago I’ve put a lot of effort in and this really means a lot to me.”
There was controversy before the start of the final when Sun slipped off the blocks and hit the water but he wasn’t charged with making a false start and ejected from the final.
“I couldn’t hear the judge very well because of the noise in the venue, I thought I was going to be disqualified (after the false start),” Sun said.
“I heard the call for the mark. I didn’t think he would say ‘quiet please’, I didn’t expect anything after ‘on your marks’.
At that moment I was so scared and it was all blank before my eyes.”
World body FINA said that Mellouli queried the start, but the Tunisians had accepted the referee’s account of the start and would not appeal his decision.
“I hope they (Tunisians) won’t be disappointed by bronze,” Mellouli said.
“After all, I am the defending champion. People need to realise how hard it is to get back on the podium after four years and how much work needs to be put out to stay at this level for this kind of competition.”
Sun slammed those who have been suspicious of Chinese performances in the pool in London.
“People think China has so many gold medals because of doping and other substances, but I can tell you it is because of hard work,” he said.
“It is all down to training and hard work that we have results. Chinese are not weaker than those in other countries.”
When asked if he was angry about the allegations during the meet, Sun said:”If you hear critics about athletes from your country, how would you feel?”
It was Sun’s second gold medal of the meet — and China’s fifth gold — after he became the first Chinese man to win Olympic swimming gold with his 400m freestyle victory.