Star-studded China squad expects Asian Games dominance
The Asian Games swimming competition will start on September 24 and China's team is expecting to continue their good form from the recent Fukuoka World Championships and the Chengdu Universiade.
Swimming competitions at the Asian Games have usually seen battles between Japan and China. Five years ago in Jakarta, the two countries tied with 19 gold medals. This time in Hangzhou, the host nation is sending most of its star swimmers, and expects to top the medal tally at home.
China took five gold, three silver and eight bronze medals in Fukuoka in July, ranking third in the medal tally behind only Australia and the United States, while Japan disappointed and finished the competition with only two bronze medals.
China's Olympic champion Zhang Yufei is in top form this year. After winning the women's 100m butterfly in Fukuoka, Zhang took part in nine events at the Chengdu Universiade and collected all nine gold medals there. Zhang will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly, the 50m freestyle and three relay events in Hangzhou.
"I want to prepare myself better for the Paris Olympics next year," said Zhang.
Newly crowned breaststroke king Qin Haiyang will also draw attention in Hangzhou as he will participate in the men's 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke and two relays. He holds Asian records in three events and a world record in the 200m.
Meanwhile, rising star Pan Zhanle expects to win the men's 100m freestyle, having lowered the event's Asian record twice this year. The 18-year-old's biggest rival will be South Korea's Hwang Sun-woo, who took a bronze in the 200m freestyle at the Fukuoka Worlds.
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Wang Shun is aiming for glories in the individual medley, while world champion Xu Jiayu, who won five golds at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, is a gold favorite in the men's 50m and 100m backstroke. Xu's old rival, Japan's Irie Ryosuke, is struggling for form after failing to make the semifinals in 100m in Fukuoka.
In addition to those Olympic and world champions, some young swimmers are aiming to prove themselves at the Asian Games. Yu Yiting, who took a bronze medal in the women's 200m medley at the World Championships, is likely to win the 200m and 400m medley gold in Hangzhou. Meanwhile, Wang Xue'er and Wan Letian will duel in the women's 50m backstroke.
Japan's leukemia survivor Ikee Rikako, who won six golds and two silvers in Jakarta, will take part in the Asian Games. "I have gold medal hopes in the 50m butterfly at the Asian Games," said the 23-year-old.
"The Chinese swimmers are very strong and I cannot medal in every event as I did in the last Asian Games. But I will try my best and tell the world 'Ikee is back'."
The swimming competition will kick off on September 24 and there will be seven gold medals on offer on the first day.