World record holder Sun Yang has become the hottest star at the National Games in Shenyang, where the swimmer is aiming to bag a staggering seven gold medals.
The 21-year-old from Zhejiang province is already more than halfway there after winning his fourth gold today in the men's 4x200 metres freestyle relay in 7:12.79. He had already bagged victories in the 200 and 400 metres freestyle and the 4x100 metre freestyle relay.
In the absence of China's other world-class talents, such as injured hurdler Liu Xiang and tennis star Li Na, who has been in action at the US Open, Sun has been at the centre of a media scrum where ever he goes.
Today Sun, who is a middle to long-distance specialist and holds the 1,500-metre world record, competed in the 100 metres qualifying for the first time ever as part of his seven-up bid.
“It felt good, although I relaxed a bit in the closing stages,” said Sun after this morning's heats. He reached the final as the third fastest in 49.34 and will compete for his fifth gold tomorrow.
“I know the pace of 100 metres is different from the middle to long-distance events which I am used to as I have to pick up the speed as soon as I start the race, but I didn't find it too much of a problem.
“Perhaps other swimmers were holding back a bit in the heats as there are many top quality sprinters in China.”
In Barcelona in July, Sun became only the second swimmer ever, after Australian Grant Hackett, to win all three long-distance freestyle golds (400m, 800m and 1500m) at a single world championships.
And after his first victory in Shenyang in the 400 metres on Wednesday night, the media room was packed to bursting with mainland reporters obsessed with Sun’s seven-golds quest.
Sun will also compete in the 1,500 metres and the 4x100 medley relay finals to finish the job.