Sun shines brightly in 1500, rivals concede
Chinese world record holder Sun Yang set the marker for the Olympic 1500m freestyle gold medal with the fastest qualifying time in heats on Friday.
Sun, who became the first Chinese man to win Olympic swimming gold with his 400m freestyle victory, clocked 14min 43.25sec to lead the distance field into Saturday’s closing day final.
Sun broke Australian Grant Hackett’s iconic 1500m freestyle world record with a time of 14:34.14 to win the world title in Shanghai last year — eclipsing a 10-year-old mark that had withstood the era of high-tech bodysuits.
He was almost three seconds ahead of Tunisian defending champion Oussama Mellouli (14:46.23) with Canadian Ryan Cochrane another three seconds away in third place.
Mellouli, who is concentrating more on the open water race on London’s Serpentine next week, doesn’t rate his chances of catching Sun in the final.
After a forgettable 2011, Mellouli has been hindered by a nagging shoulder injury in the build-up to his fourth Games.
“I woke up this morning feeling mentally not very confident but the race went well,” Mellouli said.
“How far was it (gap to Sun), three seconds? That’s how far it’s going to be.
“I’m really excited about the marathon but we’ll see how it goes tomorrow then we’ll get ready for the 10K.”
South Korea’s Park Tae-Hwan was sixth-fastest into the final and is another not keen on his chances of stopping Sun for the gold medal.
“No, not really, he is the medal athlete. Fo me it is the 200m and 400m, I am not so good over the 1500m,” Park said.
But Cochrane clings to the hope that he can overcome the Chinese favourite in the final.
“Sun Yang is beatable and all of us are vying for that spot. It’s going to be an exciting final,” the Canadian said.
A significant absence from the final is Australia after their representative Jarrod Poort finished 18th (15:20.82).
Australia has a rich tradition in the 1500m with Kieren Perkins and Hackett dominating the event through the 1990s up to 2008.
“I couldn’t settle on my pace but it was an awesome experience to be out there racing,” Poort said.© AFP 2013