A strong comeback at the worlds has rebounded former swimming prodigy Ye Shiwen from the brink of retirement, pushing her to go the extra mile en route to Tokyo 2020.
With Tokyo 2020 less than a year out, China prepares for the Olympics as Ye Shiwen (L), Xu Jiayu (C) and Sun Yang (R) shine in Gwangju. (Photo: CGTN)
For any swimmer with two Olympic gold medals, settling for silver is far from satisfying. But after finishing runner-up in the women's 200m individual medley at the ongoing world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Ye appeared even more excited than after she struck gold in the 200 and 400 IMs in her Olympic debut at London 2012.
"It's been way too long ... long enough for me to almost give up the sport," Ye said after clocking 2:08.60. "Stepping onto the podium again after seven years, I have mixed feelings. I didn't realize until now that my heart has never left the pool. I belong to where I am standing right now."
With the silver medal from Ye on the final day of the tournament, China topped the medal table with 16 golds, 11 silvers and 3 bronzes, maintaining its dominance throughout the 17-day swimming competition.
Ye's silver at the worlds has given her a timely confidence boost. (Photo: VCG)
The last day of the World Championships also saw a world record made by the United States. Team USA set a new world record of three minutes and 50.40 seconds in the women's 4x100m medley relay, breaking the previous record of 3:51.55, set by the U.S. team itself in Budapest two years ago.
The United States was the runner-up in the medal table, with 15 golds, 11 silvers and 10 bronzes, trailed by Russia that took 12 golds, 11 silvers and 7 bronzes.
The Gwangju Worlds, which opened on July 12, ended its 17-day journey under the slogan "Dive into Peace."
It was the largest ever, featuring more than 2,500 athletes from 194 countries and regions. It topped the previous biggest in Kazan, Russia in 2015 that brought together 2,146 athletes from 184 nations and regions.
The athletes competed for 76 gold medals in six disciplines: swimming, artistic swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming and water polo.
China sent a squad of 99 athletes to vie in all disciplines. Through the races, 43 percent of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualification spots were allocated.
In swimming, China's triple Olympic champion Sun Yang retained his 200m freestyle world title after he claimed his fourth consecutive world title in the men's 400 freestyle. Defending champion Xu Jiayu added another gold medal for team China in the men's 100m backstroke.
China's medals at the Gwangju Worlds
Diving: 12 golds, 4 silvers, 1 bronze
Swimming: 3 golds, 2 silvers, 2 bronze
Open Water: 1 gold
Artistic Swimming: 5 silvers