08 August 2023 | in Summer FISU World University Games
Zhang Yufei (China) acknowledges the crowd after another one of her nine gold medals
“We will put her signed swimming cap in our window display, so that everyone who comes to my house can see it,” said 10-year-old Liu Zhetong, who received the precious gift from China’s Zhang Yufei after her gold medal ceremony in the women’s 50m freestyle event.
“This is the first time that I have been so close to my idol,” the young swimming fan said with a big smile on his face.
A precious gift – Zhang Yufei’s signed swim capWith her triumph in the women’s 4x100m medley relay, Zhang secured her ninth medal on the final day of swimming at the Chengdu FISU World University Games.
The Southeastern student not only expanded her medal collection but also set a new women’s 50m freestyle FISU Games record with a time of 24.29 seconds on Monday, improving the 24.48 set ten years ago in Kazan by Belarusian Olympic silver medallist Aliaksandra Herasimenia.
Breaking one record is challenging.
Why not do it three more times, then?
The 25-year-old swimmer did just that over the past few days in the 50m butterfly, the 100m freestyle and the 100m butterfly.
“[I’ve] become numb [from] standing on the podium,” she replied to a fellow student-athlete who asked her how it felt to walk up to the podium every day to receive medals.
With success comes expectation. With expectation comes pressure.
Recently crowned world champion in Fukuoka, she struggled following up her victories in the women’s 100m butterfly and the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay at the Tokyo Olympics.Jokubas Keblys (Lithuania), bronze in men’s 50m freestyle
“The more you grow up, the more you think about things. For me, what I need is to simplify. Just to think only one thought, just to work hard and don’t think too much,” shared Zhang about what motivates her to keep going.
Her achievements accounted for half of China’s gold medals in swimming.
The host country’s total of 20 medals in the water, 18 of them gold, is only surpassed by Italy’s 31.
“It is really hard to get better when you are competing at the highest level. So, of course, it’s not disappointing to win a gold medal, but I’m always aiming to improve,” said Giovanni Izzo, who won the 50m freestyle event.
Li Bingjie (China), winner of eight gold medalsSince 2017, the Italian hasn’t been able to beat his personal best of 22 seconds, but he showed progress by coming close with a winning time of 22.17.
His compatriot Antonella Crispino took Italy’s second gold medal of the day, clinching the women’s 200m butterfly title.
China and Italy battled it out in the forty-second and final swimming event, the men’s 100m medley relay.
The FISU Games host secured the title with another record-breaking performance of 3:32.58, finishing 0.56 ahead of the Italians. The previous record was 3:32.80 by Japan from Belgrade in 2009.
Li Bingjie of China, not to be significantly overshadowed by her countrywoman Zhang’s performance, herself won eight gold medals, including in Monday’s women’s 400m freestyle.
Other FISU Games champions crowned on Monday in the pool were Lithuania’s Kotryna Teterevkova (women’s 50m breaststroke) and Japan’s Tabuchi Kaito (men’s 400m individual medley).