Bad boy Sun Yang honoured for the second time in a week to cap memorable 2017

China’s superstar swimmer, who has never been far away from controversy, is named one of Xinhua’s Top 10 Chinese Athletes of the Year

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2017, 7:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2017, 10:35pm

One-time troubled swimmer Sun Yang has made 2017 his comeback year in more ways than one after he topped the list as one of Xinhua’s Top 10 Chinese Athletes of the Year, his second honour in the space of a week.

Sun was lauded at last week’s Laureus Chinese Sports Stars Awards in Beijing and he received more adulations from the official Chinese news agency, sharing the spotlight with some of the country’s finest athletes, such as shot putter Gong Lijiao, a gold medallist after six attempts at the world championships in London and gymnast Xiao Ruoteng, the fourth Chinese athlete who won the men’s all-around title at the world championships in Montreal.

The swimmer was also named Xinhua’s Top 10 World Athletes of the Year, the only Chinese in the elite list which also includes soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer, winner of the Australian Open and Wimbledon, four-time Formula One champion, Lewis Hamilton, swimmers Sarah Sjöström and Caeleb Dressel, basketball superstar Kevin Durant, high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim, skier Marcel Hirscher and women’s tennis great, Serena Williams.

Last year, Sun had a year to forget. He had to settle for Olympic silver in Rio in the 400 metre freestyle, finishing 0.13 seconds behind rival Mack Horton, of Australia, just days after being embroiled in controversy. Sun was accused of splashing water into Horton’s face during practice. Horton responded to this incident by twice accusing Sun of being a “drug cheat”, in reference to Sun’s 2014 drug suspension. Sun was initially banned for three months by the Chinese Swimming Association after testing positive for the then-stimulant trimetazidine.

Sun has been dogged by controversy for years. In 2013, Sun was given a seven-day detention and fined 2,000 yuan (HK$2,526) for driving without a permit after the Porsche SUV he was driving collided with a bus. At the 2015 world championships, the coach of Brazil’s national swimming team accused Sun of trying to elbow and kick a female swimmer and being a nuisance to other teams.

But Sun made amends by shining at this year’s World Championships in Budapest. The 26-year-old claimed gold in the men’s 200 metre freestyle in Hungary last summer, completing a quartet in the world event from 200 metres to 1,500 metres in the freestyle.

Sun also won six gold medals at the National Games in Tianjin. Joining Sun in the list were golfer Feng Shanshan, who won her ninth LPGA title in Hainan and volleyball player Zhu Ting, the highest paid player in the world with a reported annual salary of over HK$1.2 million for Turkish side Vakıfbank Istanbul.

The other top ten were swimmer Xu Jiayu, table tennis player Ding Ning, pair figure skaters Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, diver Si Tingmao and mountaineer Luo Jing.