Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Ye! Shiwen, She Won

Ye Shiwen exults after winning the women's 400 IM gold. Pic courtesy National Post.

The 16 year old Chinese girl's feat of out-splitting even the world's fastest male swimmer raises claims of doping


By Francis Adams


Arne Ljungqvist, chief of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission and a veteran anti-doping official showed, on Monday, how an official heading an important body at the Olympic Games ought to react impartially and in a professional manner.
  Ljungqvist quashed claims of doping when asked about 16 year old Chinese girl Yi Shiwen's astounding feat in the pool by saying, "I say no. I personally have no reason other than to applaud until i have further facts."
Arne Ljungvist
 Ye won the 400m Individual Medley gold in a world record time of 4min 28.43sec, erasing more than a second off the world record achieved by Australia's Stephanie Rice four years ago in Beijing. By clocking that record time, Ye would have beaten the world's fastest swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte of the United States.
 “Should a sudden raise in performance or a win be primarily suspect of being a cheat then sport is in danger because this ruins the charm of sport,” Ljungqvist, who has 40 years experience in anti-doping told the National Post.
  Ye's heroics did not go down well with John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association. "But the final 100m was impossible. Flat out. If all her split times had been faster I don't think anybody would be calling it into question, because she is a good swimmer. But to swim three other splits at the rate that she did, which was quite ordinary for elite competition, and then unleash a historic anomaly, it is just not right," Leonard told The Guardian.
 Ye herself told The Guardian that "the Chinese team keeps very firmly to the anti-doping policies, so there is absolutely no problem."
  The clean chit given to Ye by WADA, the world anti-doping body, on Tuesday, has added addtional shine to her record-breaking effort.
 With 17 medals ( nine gold, five silver and three bronze) in two days of competition and dominating the leaderboard, China is more than likely to face the envy of the rest of the world, led by the developed Western nations who have been ruling the podium for almost a century, that is, until four years ago when China hosted the Beijing Games and finished at the top in the overall medal tally.
 Almost every country, dominant in sports or the also-ran, have witnessed doping related incidents.
  An editorial in Tuesday's The Times of India, the country's largest English-language newspaper by circulation and readership exhorted the country to "Begin With an Olympic Dream".
  Unlike India, with an equally huge population, China's orientation toward sports development began with Mao Zedong's slogan of "promoting physical culture and building people's health" that triggered the change.
  It was during this time that the feudal dynasty, with a Confucian cultural heritage embraced modern forms of physical exercises and sport owing to western influence and the advent of missionaries, who introduced track and field events as part of the educational program.
 According to a document "China and the Olympic Movement" by Hai Ren, who was the Professor of Beijing University of Physical Education and Director of the Centre for Olympic Studies at the Beijing University of Physical Education when he wrote it, "1979 marked a significant turning point of Olympic  development in China with its returning to the international Olympic family. During the 1980s a sport developmental strategy was proposed by the National Sport Commission, involving harmonious development between high performance sports aiming at the Olympic Games and mass sports, which focused on youngsters."
 The document says that with the exception of traditional sport such as Wushu, the administration in China restablished the National Games, held every four years into an Olympic-oriented policy. This produced dramatic and positive results.
  In an interesting anecdote from history, it was in 1948, post World War II and at the London Olympic Games that 33 athletes representing China in basketball, football, track and field, swimming and cycling ended up without a medal. As a result their government at that time left them stranded in London, without any money in their pockets. It asked the delegation to solve the problem themselves and made its intention clear that it would not spend a single penny for their return.
  Sixty four years on, the Chinese athletes participating in London 2012 are well fed and looked after by their government. June 23 is marked as Olympic Day and Olympic champions are treated as national heroes and showered with luxuries.
  It wouldn't be a surprise if China walks away as the leader at the end of this year's Olympic Games. 

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