By sportswriter Tan Jingjing
LONDON, July 28 (Xinhua) -- China stole the highlights in the pool at the London Olympics Saturday with two historic victories in a sport which has long been dominated by western countries.
Emerging Chinese swimming star Sun Yang joined teenager standout Ye Shiwen to make China the undeniable pool winner on the opening day of London Olympics, pocketing two of the four gold medals.
With an emphatic win over South Korea's defending champion Park Tae Hwan, Sun has made history by becoming the first Chinese male swimmer to claim an Olympic gold medal.
The men's 400m freestyle has witnessed a final showdown between Sun and Park, long-time rivals in the event. After losses to Park in the event at the 2011 Shanghai World Championships and the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, Sun finally succeeded in a revenge at Olympic arena and underlined his supremacy.
The London Aquatic Center was immersed into wildness by the thunderous cheers and applause from the full stands, among whom are Chinese fans.
Sun was half-second behind Park off the blocks and trailed him closely in the first 200m. He narrowed the gap and tied Park after 300m. Sun put on a devastating burst over the last 100m to power home at 3:40.14, setting a new Olympic record and starring with gold.
His time was just 0.07 seconds away from the world record set by German prodigy Paul Biedermann in polyurethane-suited Rome World Championships.
Sun was two seconds ahead of Park, who posted 3:42.06 to settle for the silver. Bronze went to Peter Vanderkaay from the United States in 3:44.69.
It was not an easy race for Sun, especially after Park's "back to life" following an initial disqualification for a false start.
During the morning heats, Sun easily breezed into final with a fastest time. Park, however, was disqualified by a judge on the pool deck.
South Korean media accused a Chinese judge of so-called referee conspiracy regarding Park's disqualification. But it turned out to be a rumor as no Chinese judge was involved in the event and the judge who disqualified Park was in fact a Japanese.
Two hours before evening's final, Park was reinstated by the FINA Jury of Appeal after examining the protest lodged by the Korean Swimming Federation and made the decision based on the recommendation of the FINA Technical Swimming Commission.
The incident mounted a challenge to the mental state for both Sun and Park. Sun managed to get over the distraction in the final to underline his realm in the event.
"I have swum my personal best time and I want to use this swim to tell the South Koreans (who were angry after Park was disqualified this morning) something," said Sun after the race.
"We do not need to do anything other than swim our best in order to win," said Sun, who starred at last year's Shanghai World Championships as he smashed Grant Hackett's decade-old 1,500m freestyle world record.
After the historic win, Sun burst in tears, draping himself with a Chinese flag and flashing a giant grin for photographers.
It has been waited for a long time before a Chinese male swimmer finally climbs atop Olympic podium.
Four years ago, Sun's teammate Zhang Lin surprisingly won a silver at the 2008 Olympics on home soil. Under the tutelage of Hackett's former coach, Dennis Cotterell, Sun stepped out from behind the shadow of Zhang had a clutch of world best times this year.
He is currently ranked number one in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle.
Sun's historic Olympic gold was a great breakthrough for China in what are considered more international Olympic sports, including swimming and track and field.
His confidence-boosting victory may have a significant impact on tens of thousands of Chinese swimming fans and encourage more companions to seek glory on world stage.
Another Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen is also a shining star in pool as she managed to turn the table to win the women's 400 individual medley, setting a new world record.
The 16-year-old Ye touched in 4:28.43 to wipe out the previous record held by Rice from Beijing Olympics by one second, well ahead of silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel from the United States who clocked 4:31.27. Her teammate Li Xuanxu pocketed a bronze at 4:32.91.
Ye was sluggish off blocks, and trailed triple-Olympic champion Stephanie Rice in the first butterfly leg, then overtook her but fell behind Beisel who had a super-fast breaststroke leg.
Finally Ye managed a devastating burst over the last freestyle leg to power home with a gold.
The excellence of Sun and Ye was no doubt a good start, not only for Chinese swimming team in London, but also for greater achievements of China's swimming career in days to come.