LONDON – Two finals, two golds. And all anybody wants to know about Chinese teen swimming sensation Ye Shiwen is whether she’s doping.
After shattering the world record in the 400 individual medley on the opening day of the pool competition at the London Games, the 16-year-old broke her Olympic record to take the 200 IM title Tuesday.
Ye flashed smiles toward the crowd and sang her national anthem, then walked into a packed and hostile press conference where she faced one question after another over whether she is taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Ye is smaller than most swimmers at her level but has never failed a drug test, and Olympic organizers spent much of the day defending her, saying the suspicions were “crazy” and motivated by jealousy.
“Of course, I think this is a little bit unfair for me, but I was not affected by that,” Ye said in comments translated from Mandarin.
Asked directly whether she had doped, she said: “Absolutely not.” She added that she has trained 21/2 hours every morning and 2 1/2 hours each afternoon for nine years.
It has paid off in London.
In Saturday’s 400, Ye sliced through the last lap in 28.93 seconds – a split-second faster than American winner Ryan Lochte posted in the last 50 of the men’s race.
Her overall time was 4:28.43, more than a second quicker than the previous world record set by Australia’s Stephanie Rice at the 2008 Beijing Games in a now-banned bodysuit.
Her latest victory wasn’t so emphatic. Still, she became the first Chinese swimmer with two Olympic golds. Ye was only third at the final turn, then surged ahead in the last lap of freestyle, her best stroke.
She clocked 2 minutes, 7.57 seconds, shaving 0.18 off her Olympic record set in Monday’s semifinal. She was far off the world record set by American Ariana Kukors at the 2009 worlds – the height of the high-tech bodysuit era.
Alicia Coutts of Australia wasn’t too far behind to take silver in 2:08.15, and Caitlin Leverenz of the United States finished in 2:08.95 to take bronze. Defending champion Rice of Australia was fourth.
“I never really expected to swim that fast,” Ye said. “I was surprised. I was really nervous. I thought, ‘I cannot lose. Freestyle is my best stroke.’ ”
Leverenz was also asked about Ye and said she was “not the person to judge.” She said she trusted anti-doping authorities to do their job.
On Monday, John Leonard, the head of the American Swimming Coaches Association but not a member of the U.S. Olympic staff, was among those openly questioning Ye’s legitimacy.
The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying the last 100 meters of her 400 IM “was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers.”
“History in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I put quotation marks around this, ‘unbelievable,’ history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved,” Leonard was quoted as saying.
Olympic organizers resolutely defended the teen.
“We need to get real here,” said International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams. “These are the world’s best athletes competing at the very highest level. We’ve seen all sorts of records broken already all over the place.”
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