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Sun Yang spearheads China for historic Olympic relay medal

2012-07-31 22:39:26 GMT2012-08-01 06:39:26(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Sun Yang (2nd R) of China wave to his parents at the awarding ceremony of men's 4x200m freestyle relay of swimming at the London 2012 Olympic Games in London, Britain, July 31, 2012. Chinese swimmers won the bronze medal in this event. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)

Swimmers of China pose at the awarding ceremony of men's 4x200m freestyle relay of swimming at the London 2012 Olympic Games in London, Britain, July 31, 2012. Chinese swimmers won the bronze medal in this event. (Xinhua/Fei Maohua)

LONDON, July 31 (Xinhua) -- China's Olympic champion Sun Yang took team China from fifth to third in his final leg to bring the country a historic Olympic relay medal on Tuesday.

This is the first time that Chinese swimmers were qualified into relay races at Olympic Games. A bronze medal in men's 4X200 freestyle relay has already been a great breakthrough for them.

In the race which was previously dominated by western powers, Olympic champion Sun Yang spearheaded team China, which also features Hao Yun, Li Yunqi and Jiang Haiqi, to fly over powerhouse Germany led by Olympic champion and world record holder Paul Biedermann.

Team United States, with overwhelming Olympic champions Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte ensure its first and last laps, sprinted home first in 6:59.70.

Silver went to team France, featuring Olympic champion Yannick Agnel as the last lap, in 7:02.77.

Chinese swimmers posted 7:06.30 for the bronze medal.

During the team race, the stadium was immersed into wildness by the thunderous cheers and applause from the full stands.

Team America firmly took the lead right after Lochte surfaced following his dive off the starting block, and never looked back before Phelps powering home to bag his first gold in London.

The Chinese team was seventh after the first leg of teenager Hao Yun. Li Yunqi caught on to put team in the fifth place after his second leg.

Jiang Haiqi continued to chase closely and held the fifth place for China before Sun, the final lap, jumped in.

Sun, who shone in London with one gold and one silver already in hands, put on an astonishing sprint over the last 200m.

He flew over German Clemens Rapp and Australian swimmer Ryan Napoleon to give team China a bronze medal.

"I have tried my best to win the race. I really hope to make history for the Chinese team," said Sun.

"It was more than happy to step on the Olympic podium together with my teammates," he said.

The 20-year-old praised the performance of his teammates. "They performed very well in the first three laps, setting a very good pace for me to come up finally with a medal," he said.

Team China failed to qualify for relay competitions in Beijing and Athens. They made breakthrough as they captured a bronze medal at Shanghai World Championships last year.

"The Olympic bronze medal far outweighs the world bronze. It means too much for us and will encourage us to move on," Sun said.

It is the third Olympic medal for Sun at the ongoing swimming competitions, with one gold and one silver in men's 400m and 200m freestyle competitions.

Another gold beckons for him in his signature 1,500m freestyle, which saw him smashing Grant Hackett's decade-old world record at Shanghai World Championships.

Sun has become the first Chinese male swimmer to snatch an Olympic gold.

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