Controversial as he is, Sun Yang is very arguably the greatest freestyle swimmer of all time.
The Chinese superstar won his ninth career world title — all individual freestyle golds — by taking the 200m free in Budapest on Tuesday. So exhausted, he emerged from the Danube Arena pool to lay on the deck for several seconds before coming to his feet.
Sun clocked 1:44.39, while American Townley Haas took silver in 1:45.04 for his first individual medal at a major international meet. Russian Aleksandr Krasnykh picked up the bronze.
Sun was next to last after 50 meters but burst to the lead by the 150-meter mark. He had the fastest final 100 meters by .66 of a second.
Sun, 25, won the 200m free at worlds for the first time, one year after his first Olympic 200m free title. Sun has now won Olympic and world gold medals at every freestyle distance from 200m to 1500m. Only one other swimmer can boast that — Katie Ledecky.
Sun trails only Michael Phelps (15) and Ryan Lochte (10) in individual world titles. Sun can tie Lochte if he wins the 800m free in Budapest on Wednesday.
But Sun is not universally admired in swimming. He served a silent three-month doping ban in 2014. The next year, Sun shockingly did not show up for the 1500m free final at worlds. Sun said in a post-meet press conference that it was due to a heart problem and declined to comment when asked about a reported warm-up altercation with a Brazilian swimmer.
Haas, 20, was a revelation in 2016. He won the Olympic Trials 200m free and had the fastest split by .71 in the Olympic 4x200m free relay but was fifth in the individual 200m final in Rio.
Men’s 200m Freestyle Results
Gold: Sun Yang (CHN) — 1:44.39
Silver: Townley Haas (USA) — 1:45.04
Bronze: Aleksandr Krasnykh (RUS) — 1:45.23
4. Duncan Scott (GBR) — 1:45.27
5. James Guy (GBR) — 1:45.36
6. Dominik Kozma (HUN) — 1:45.54
7. Mikhail Dovgalyuk (RUS) — 1:46.02
8. Park Tae-Hwan (KOR) — 1:47.11
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