Chinese former Olympic champion swimming for fun now

Updated 2017-10-24 09:32:55 Xinhua

Chinese swimming wunderkind Ye Shiwen spent nearly three years to learn how to swim for fun without victory.

"I keep swimming because I still have passion for the sport. But I spend more time on study right now," said Ye, a junior of the law college at Tsinghua University, here on Monday.

Ye, 21, didn't show up in her most accomplished medley events, but took part in five events all with single stroke at the Chinese National Swimming Championships which started in the tourist city Huangshan last Friday.

She clinched her first national title of breaststroke on Sunday by winning the 100m race and added the second gold by taking victory in the 200m breaststroke on Monday.

"It's far beyond my expectation," said Ye, who swam her personal best in both events. "After the National Games, I just practiced four days a week and usually one hour every time with the university's swimming team. I also took a rest during the National Day holiday."

"After years of competition, I felt numb for swimming in individual medley races. I want to try some other events. In addition, I need to give priority to my study at university from now on," said Ye after defending her 200m individual medley title at the National Games in Tianjin in September.

Ye was enrolled in Tsinghua in 2014. Being a professional athlete for years, she had to adjust herself to the life of a student.

"I ride a bike between class and dorm. The uphill road always makes me feel tired," Ye said on Monday.

"I found out that being an athlete is simpler than being a student. You don't need to worry about anything rather than training.

"Af first, I was very upset as I felt it's so difficult to study my major. I was used to keep aggressive and it's hard for me to have inner peace while studying at the beginning."

Being a student was not the only challenge for Ye. She also struggled to deal with the disappointments of her swimming career in the past three years.

Aged just 14, Ye took victories in the 200m and 400m individual medley events at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. One year later, She won her first world champion title in long-course by clinching the gold medal in 200m individual medley.

At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Ye made a even more huge splash by sweeping two individual medley gold medals. In the 400m final, she broke the world record held by Australian Stephanie Rice since the 2008 Olympics with a time of 4:28.43, an improvement of a further three seconds.

Having made the great achievements at such a tender age, Ye returned home empty-handed from the following three World Championships. She finished eighth in the 200m individual medley race and failed to qualify for the 400m final at last year's Rio Olympic Games.

"I was famed when I was a girl. When I was troubled by injuries or suspicions by others, I was not tough enough," said Ye. "I was not ready to handle the failures. I could not face the reality that I was not at my peak form anymore."

But Ye gradually settled down to accept the situation. "Now I think a great athlete should be brave to fight for your dreams and also to afford your failures."

"In the past, I cared too much about the results and rankings. I often felt great pressures. But now I just want to swim to my best," said Ye.

The relaxed law school junior wants to swim until the 2020 Olympic Games.

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