Asian Games: Sun Yang’s mental strength helps him endure exhausting schedule after shock relay call-up for China in Jakarta
Three-time Olympic swimming champion is receiving nightly treatment on his back as he looks forward to his favourite event, the men’s 1,500 metres freestyle
Exhausted China superstar Sun Yang said his ability to stay mentally strong is helping him endure a draining schedule at the Asian Games after he was surprisingly called up for the men’s 4x100 metres team.
Sun, who is aiming for his fourth individual medal in Jakarta in Friday’s 1,500m freestyle, swam third on Wednesday as China finished second to Japan in the relay – Sun’s second silver after the 4x200m relay event.
The 26-year-old said this week that he would battle through pain for his country’s cause in the pool. But he admitted that his schedule – so far five events – is taking its toll after he was up until 2am on Wednesday morning receiving treatment for his back and thinking he would have two days to rest before being told he was marked down for relay duty.
“I woke up in the morning only to receive notice that I was in the 4x100m relay squad,” said Sun, who was ever-willing to answer the call. “And then I prepared for it. It was four days in a row I swam but even though I’m tired I feel good and try to keep myself fit with exercise.
“The 1,500 is my best event and I believe in myself. I hope that I will continue to enjoy a strong mental state until the end. That is what helps me.
“I have to make the best of it. Everyone, not only myself, is tired and we have the spirit to do it.”
The three-time Olympic champion’s mere presence in Jakarta has lifted the swimming event
and his flamboyance and interaction with Chinese fans in the crowd have been among the highlights at the Aquatic Centre since Monday.
He also showed his patriotism on the first day when he asked for the medal ceremony to be repeated after the flags fell down during the anthem just before they reached the top of the flagpole.
Sun has so far won freestyle golds in the 200m, 800m and 400m and is heavy favourite for the 1,500m, for which he holds the world record of 14:31.02.
Sun will be in lane three for the final based on a qualifying time of 15:04.92 with Japan’s Shogo Takeda having the fastest time of 14:55.42 in lane four and his compatriot Ayatsugu Hirai (14:58.88) in lane five.
It also appears Sun has made peace with China swimming over the wearing of the official delegation uniform at the medal ceremonies.
On Monday, he caused a stir when he appeared in the yellow of his personal sponsor, 361 – a sportswear company. It prompted a complaint from Anta – which is the Chinese delegation’s official sponsor and a rival of 361. The next day, Sun wore the white-topped uniform but covered the Anta logo with a large Chinese flag.
On Wednesday, however, he stood on the podium along with his three teammates all wearing matching suits.