Record-breaker Yang Junxuan: an artistic girl and a flying fish

Updated: May 14, 2021 Xinhua Print
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Yang Junxuan of Shandong reacts after the women's 200m freestyle final at the 2021 Chinese National Swimming Championships in Qingdao, east China's Shandong province, May 4, 2021. [Xinhua/Xu Chang]

Yang Junxuan, 19-year-old record-breaker, shares her life both in and outside the swimming pool.

QINGDAO, China, May 8 (Xinhua) — With a soft voice and a passion for drawing and calligraphy, it seems difficult to imagine how an unstoppable "flying fish" Yang Junxuan could be in the swimming pool.

With cheers and applause, Yang clocked a time of one minute 54.57 seconds for the 200m freestyle victory, slicing 0.13 seconds off the Asian record of 1:54.70 she set in China's Swimming Challenge meet in Zhaoqing in early March, which is still awaiting official recognition of the Asian Swimming Federation.

Record-Breaker Yang Junxuan: an Artistic Girl and a Flying Fish
Gold medalist Yang Junxuan (C), silver medalist Li Bingjie (L) of Hebei and bronze medalist Tang Muhan of Guangdong pose during the awarding ceremony after the women's 200m freestyle final. [Xinhua/Xu Chang]

"I didn't think about breaking the record or so, but rather getting a better result," said the 19-year-old, for whom waiting for the record approval is more like "going with the flow."

Yang prepared for the Chinese National Swimming Championships with her coaching team in southwest China's Yunnan Province. An outdoor swimming pool at an altitude of 900 meters has helped her recover faster after training and thus achieved better results later in Qingdao. "My physical fitness, strength and speed have all improved," said Yang. "Previous training has also helped."

Adapting to the morning finals has been a problem for all but Yang seemed to have found her secret approach: warm up more, move more, and motivate herself more.

During the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, Yang has become a promising star on the Chinese Swimming Team. Yang teamed up with Xu Jiayu, Yan Zibei and Zhang Yufei in October 2020 and broke the world record for the mixed 4x100m medley relay. Meanwhile, she has also become one of the best in 200m freestyle in the world.

Record-Breaker Yang Junxuan: an Artistic Girl and a Flying Fish
Xu Jiayu, Yan Zibei, Zhang Yufei, Yang Junxuan (From L to R) pose for photos after breaking the world record in the mixed 4X100m medley relay at the 2020 Chinese National Swimming Championships in Qingdao, Oct. 2, 2020. [Xinhua/Tao Xiyi]

Coping with increasing attention and anticipation, the Shandong youngster admitted that "there is a little pressure on me" but she managed to be herself under the pressure. "I hope to do my best in the relay at the Tokyo Olympics, and push my limits against European and American swimmers."

Outside the swimming pool, Yang gets rid of the pressure by talking with others, as well as drawing and calligraphy. According to her coach Wang Aimin, Yang has always been a talented girl who enjoyed drawing since a young age. Yang would also hand out her calligraphy, drawings and poetic couplets as gifts to her teammates.

"Calligraphy and drawing makes Yang more calm and patient," said Wang. "I always believe that people who can think calmly, work hard, and dedicate to their career will succeed no matter what they do."

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