By Chan U-Gene
FOR Chinese swimmer Tang Yi, the Youth Olympic Games will be unforgettable for six “golden” reasons.
The 17-year-old yesterday claimed her fifth and sixth golds with wins in the 50m freestyle and mixed 4x100m freestyle to become the most decorated athlete at these inaugural Games.
Her collection was two short of the record eight golds American star Michael Phelps collected at Beijing 2008, but it was still an impressive haul.
“My target is to win in every event, but I never really expected to get so many golds,” said the freestyle specialist in Mandarin.
It could have been seven but for the girls’ 4x100m medley relay, in which China were disqualified for a false start.
Tang Yi, however, emerged top in every other event she entered, including the 100m and 200m freestyle, and the girls’ and mixed 4x100m freestyle relays.
But unlike most of her rivals, the student from Tongji University in Shanghai already boasts Olympic experience.
She debuted at Beijing 2008, where she was part of the fourth-placed Chinese team in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
“In Beijing, I didn’t get a chance to stand on the podium. Now, I can.”
Again and again she did, each time displaying a megawatt smile.
But her teammates were not forgotten.
Tang Yi said: “Unity is strength. My secret is the team. I could not have done it without them.”
That bond within the Chinese swim team was evident through the six-day competition. Wherever they went, they went as one.
The cohesion paid off.
They finished the swimming competition with the most relay wins, winning three out of six relay events. And of the 35 golds on offer, China finished with 11, adding two silvers and a bronze.
For Hungary, it was a case of better late than never. Yesterday, they picked up three golds by dominating the boys’ 200m backstroke and butterfly, and girls’ 400m freestyle. They left the Singapore Sports School tied with Australia on four swimming golds in total.
Ukraine and France are also tied in third place with three golds each.
The United States, traditionally a swimming powerhouse, had a poor showing, managing just a gold and two silvers.
They had chosen to send their “A” team to compete in the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Hawaii instead.
photos Janos Schmidt