Sun Yang

Sun Yang’s Australian coach speaks out amid podium protest echoes

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Sun Yang‘s Australian coach, Denis Cotterell, reportedly said that those who call the controversial Chinese swimmer a doper are being hypocrites.

“What is the definition of a drug cheat?” Cotterell, who guided Australian swimmers for decades before being hired to work with Chinese swimmers more than a decade ago, said, according to the Australian. “Someone who has failed a test? By that definition, they have got drug cheats on the Australian team. I have been on teams where people have failed a drug test, accidentally and through no fault of their own. I would never call them cheats. It seems to be very hypocritical.”

Sun, who owns 11 individual world titles (second only to Michael Phelps), faced podium protests from Australian silver medalist Mack Horton and British bronze medalist Duncan Scott after winning the 400m and 200m freestyles at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, this week.

Neither Horton nor Scott would shake Sun’s hand or pose for the traditional post-medal ceremony photos. Horton, the Rio 400m free champion who called Sun a “drug cheat” at those Games, stood behind the podium rather than on it during the Chinese anthem. All three swimmers were issued warnings by FINA.

Sun is in the midst of his second known doping controversy.

First, in 2014, he was banned three months after testing positive for a banned stimulant that he said he took for years to treat an existing heart problem. The stimulant was added to the banned list that year. The length of the ban was not so much a major issue, given the circumstances, but that it wasn’t announced until after he had served it.

Then this March, the British newspaper the Sunday Times reported incidents involving Sun when a doping control official visited his home in China last September. A vial of Sun’s blood was reportedly smashed with a hammer, and his entourage disputed the official’s credentials.

Sun “noticed during the test that one of the unauthorized officers was secretly filming him without his permission,” said a statement from Sun’s lawyers.

The dispute continued beyond 11 p.m., and his request for replacement officials from Swedish-based collection agency International Doping Tests and Management was denied, his lawyers claimed. “The officers then decided to stop the testing and gave the blood samples back to Sun Yang,” the statement said.

FINA issued Sun a warning. The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed for a stricter punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court set the hearing for after the world championships in September, which rankled other swimmers as Sun competes at worlds in the meantime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Michael Phelps world record shattered by 19-year-old at swimming worlds

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Michael Phelps‘ world record in his signature event was emphatically wiped away by 19-year-old Hungarian Kristof Milak at the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea on Wednesday.

Milak clocked 1:50.73, taking .78 off Phelps’ mark from the 2009 World Championships, where since-banned high-tech swimsuits contributed to a bevy of fast times.

“As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” Phelps said after watching the race online, according to The New York Times. “That kid’s last 100m was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”

Phelps held the world record since 2001, his streak of 18 years the longest for one men’s event in swimming history, according to Olympic historians Bill Mallon and Hilary Evans.

Milak was a backstroker until age 14, but even when he devoted to the butterfly, he focused on the 100m because he lacked strength. Milak broke out in 2018 by lowering his 200m personal best to 1:52.71, the sixth-fastest time in history behind four from Phelps and one from countryman Laszlo Cseh.

“I tried to switch off everything, and I tried not to think of swimming at all before the race,” he said. “It’s a tremendous honor to set such a great record.”

Phelps won eight combined Olympic and world titles in the 200m fly, the event where he made his Olympic debut in 2000 (placing fifth).

Phelps broke his first of 39 world records across all events in the 200m fly in March 2001 at a meet where he listened to “Perfect Gentleman” by Wyclef Jean on a CD player on repeat before races. At 15, Phelps was the youngest man to break a world record.

He won his first world title in the 200m fly, later in 2001, and lowered the world record eight times overall.

Phelps, who retired after his record 28th Olympic medal in Rio and has brushed off comeback questions for the last three years, still owns world records in the 100m butterfly and 400m individual medley.

Milak became the first man to break a Phelps world record since Milorad Cavic took the 100m fly mark at the 2009 Worlds, where Phelps snatched the record back the following day.

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Also Wednesday, Caeleb Dressel‘s bid for a Phelps-record-breaking eight golds at a single worlds may have ended as Australia edged the U.S. by .02 in the mixed-gender 4x100m medley. Dressel made up a 7.21-second deficit on the third leg, the butterfly, because two women and two men were scattered across the four spots for each team. But Australian Cate Campbell made up a 1.25-second deficit on Simone Manuel on anchor.

Dressel matched Phelps’ record seven golds at a single worlds two years ago with the help of two mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ heyday. Dressel can still get to seven as he’s expected to race in five more finals this week, but to reach eight, he must be added to the men’s 4x200m free, which he was not part of in 2017.

Controversial Chinese Sun Yang was sixth in the 800m freestyle, a final that went off without an American for the first time in 12 years. Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, the Olympic 1500m champion, prevailed by 2.01 seconds in 7:39.27.

Sun won the 800m in 2011, 2013 and 2015 but has in recent years shifted toward the 200m and 400m frees, which he won earlier this week and faced podium protests from Australian and British medalists. The 800m marked the last individual event for Sun at this meet.

Italian Federica Pellegrini earned her fourth world title in the 200m free and her eight straight medal dating to 2005. Pellegrini, a 30-year-old who next year will be older than any individual female Olympic swimming champion, surged past 18-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus in the last 50 meters to win by .44 in 1:54.22.

Two years ago, Pellegrini handed Katie Ledecky her first major international final loss in any individual event. Ledecky, plus medal contenders Emma McKeon of Australia and Taylor Ruck of Canada, withdrew before Tuesday’s 200m free heats, with Ledecky and McKeon citing illness. Ledecky was still under the weather on Wednesday, dampening her hopes of starting her last two events of the meet — Thursday’s 4x200m free and the 800m free Friday and Saturday.

Brit Adam Peaty completed a sweep of the 50m and 100m breaststrokes for a third straight worlds, clocking 26.06 seconds. Peaty owns the seven fastest times in history in the non-Olympic event, including the world record of 25.95.

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Lilly King beats Yulia Efimova again, then laughs with Russian rival

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Lilly King beat Russian Yuliya Efimova again in the 100m breaststroke at the world championships. Then the former heated rivals clasped hands, exchanged pecks on the cheek and laughed with each other minutes later.

King has repeated over the last two years that she and Efimova moved on from their Rio Olympic rivalry, where King called out Efimova for having served a doping ban, causing Efimova to cry at a post-race press conference.

It’s more civil now, King said after the 2017 Worlds, where they embraced and shared a laugh in the pool in Budapest. They appeared just as friendly, if not more, after King beat Efimova in the 100m breast for a third straight major international meet in Gwangju, South Korea on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say we have completely moved on, but we are definitely more cordial than we have been,” said King, who clocked 1:04.93, eight tenths off her world record, to edge Efimova by .58. “Again, that was three years ago. I was 19 and a half. … I think it was blown out of proportion a little bit, the whole situation, but again we’ve both grown up since then. We’ve both moved on, and I think we take this rivalry in stride.”

King and Efimova renew their calmer rivalry twice more at worlds in the 50m and 200m breasts. King won the former at 2017 Worlds, while Efimova won the latter. On Tuesday, Efimova reflected on what happened in Rio.

“If you take Lilly King and ask her if she’d do the same as she did (then), I think she would never say I did it right,” she said, according to Agence France-Presse. “Probably she’d think she did it wrong.”

Worlds continue Wednesday with Caeleb Dressel expected back in action in the mixed-gender 4x100m medley, which could be his third of a possible eight gold medals. There will also be finals in the men’s 800m freestyle, women’s 200m freestyle (sans the ill Katie Ledecky), men’s 200m butterfly and men’s 50m breaststroke.

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Earlier Tuesday, controversial Chinese Sun Yang repeated as 200m freestyle champion despite touching the wall in second. Lithuanian Danas Rapsys beat Sun but was quickly disqualified for twitching on the starting block.

The medal ceremony was a bit of a repeat of Sun’s 400m free title on Sunday. Co-bronze medalist Duncan Scott of Great Britain and Sun did not appear to shake hands before the Chinese anthem. After, Sun turned around as they left the podium, approached Sun and spoke at him, pointing his finger in his face. More on this episode here.

Sun’s 400m free win was followed by Australian silver medalist Mack Horton‘s protest. Only Michael Phelps has more individual world titles (15) than Sun’s 11.

Canadian Kylie Masse repeated as 100m backstroke champion, while American Olivia Smoliga took bronze. World-record holder Kathleen Baker, competing in her first meet in four months due to pneumonia and a broken rib, faded from first at 50 meters to sixth.

Olympic champion Ryan Murphy was also first at the halfway point of the men’s 100m back, but dropped to fourth as China’s Xu Jiayu repeated as world champion.

Italian Simona Quadarella became the first woman other than Ledecky to win the 1500m free world title since 2011, clocking 15:40.89 in Ledecky’s absence. Ledecky’s world record is 15:20.48.

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