Swimming star Sun Yang vows to continue his career after lengthy ban

Sun Yang at 2017 Chinese National Games Photo: VCG

Sun Yang Photo: VCG

China’s three-time Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang has decided to return to competitions and continue his swimming career now that his 51-month ban has ended, according to The Paper on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old said he never ceased training during the past four years and wanted to keep his passion alive to open up a new chapter in his professional career.

Sun became the first athlete from the Chinese mainland to win an Olympic gold in men’s swimming in 2012 after he clinched the 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle titles in the London Olympic Games. He went on to win gold in the 200m freestyle in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, becoming the most decorated Chinese swimmer in history with his 11 world championships titles. 

Sun was suspended for eight years by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2020 for refusing to complete a doping test in 2018. His ban was cut to four years and three months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2021.

He is not able to participate in the upcoming Paris Olympic Games since he missed the domestic Olympic qualifiers for the Paris Games and is currently not eligible to represent China in international tournaments.

Liu Yu, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Sun’s comeback is good news for Chinese swimming but it remains a question whether he can return to top form. 

“It’s been a long time since Sun took part in an elite competition. He has to re-establish himself in domestic events before having a chance to return to the national team,” Liu said. 

“The public’s expectations for him remain high as no Chinese swimmer has emulated his performance in long distance swimming in recent years. Like he said, his biggest adversary now is himself,” Liu noted. 

Sun said that he has stayed in good shape by maintaining a five-hour training session every day.

“Four years is long and bitter. I got married and I’m pursuing my PhD at Shanghai University of Sport. But I never thought of retirement while serving the ban. I’m not as obsessed with rankings and gold medals as I used to be. I care more about the meaning of perseverance and endeavor,” he said. 

Sun’s agency posted training photos with a message on Sina Weibo on Tuesday, wishing the intrepid swimmer to transcend himself. 

One Sina Weibo user commented that a four-year suspension for an athlete is career-threatening and that Sun’s never-say-die attitude during the low of his career is deserving of respect. 

If would be the perfect riposte to all the doubters if he could return to international competitions, said another Sina Weibo user.