Chinese swimmer Tang rises to claim first swimming worlds title

Updated: Feb 20, 2024 Print
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Tang Qianting clinched her first World Aquatics Championships title in the women's 100m breaststroke event on Tuesday night. [Photo/Xinhua]

DOHA -- Tang Qianting clinched her first World Aquatics Championships title in the women's 100m breaststroke event on Tuesday night, despite not initially knowing she had won.

The 19-year-old, who surged ahead in the race, touched the wall at one minute and 5.27 seconds, ahead of the Netherlands' Tes Schouten and Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, China. The victory sealed China's first World Championships gold in this event since 2003.

It wasn't until her competitors congratulated her that she glanced at the venue's large screen and discovered her achievement. Overwhelmed with emotion, Tang burst into tears upon realizing her victory.

"I thought I was in second place," Tang admitted. "And I felt I didn't do as well as yesterday's semifinal. I never expected to win."

Reflecting on her victory, Tang attributed her success to her coaches' advice.

"My coaches reminded me before the final not to pursue result intentionally but to focus on details and execute each technical move well," she stated.

In recent years, Tang has emerged as a beacon of hope for Chinese swimming. In 2023, she shattered the Asian record of the women's 50m breaststroke at the Fukuoka World Aquatics Championships. Her stellar performance continued at the Hangzhou Asian Games, where she secured gold in the same event, also setting a new Asian record.

Despite 2023 being viewed by many as a year of great accomplishments for Tang, the swimmer herself surprisingly admitted that it was a year filled with difficulties and internal struggles.

"I would say I was at a low point in 2023. Sometimes, I even felt afraid of swimming breaststroke, losing some confidence," she said.

Born in Shanghai, Tang was enrolled in a local swimming school at the age of five after her parents asked if she was interested in swimming.

Quickly developing an interest in swimming, Tang told her mother Tang Ruiyu after two weeks of training that she really enjoyed the feeling in the water.

At that time, her parents did not anticipate Tang pursuing swimming professionally.

"You should prioritize what you like first. If you are genuinely interested in this area in the future, then you can gradually develop it," they simply told her.

Tang found a different kind of joy in the water, especially whenever she participated in competitions and achieved good results, which made her exceptionally happy.

"She has good qualities, and most importantly, she can overcome any difficulties by herself, which is not easy," said her early coach Zhang Qiong.

At the 2021 FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), 17-year-old Tang performed remarkably well, successfully bringing home the women's 100m breaststroke champion. That same year, Tang represented China at the Tokyo Olympics, securing 10th place in the 100m breaststroke and helping China achieve fourth place in the 4x100m medley relay.

Being a breaststroke swimmer of similar size, it's easy for people to recall Chinese legend Luo Xuejuan, who won Olympic gold at Athens 2004 and was also the last Chinese woman to win the 100m breaststroke title at the World Championships. As Tang continuously breaks through in major competitions, Luo has commented that Tang has the potential to surpass herself.

"I'm honored that she would say that," Tang responded. "But I still have many shortcomings that need improvement, such as endurance and strength. In the future, my plan is to learn from the predecessors."

Behind every champion lies numerous hardships, constituting a dual test of physical and mental endurance. For Tang, the bottleneck period is the most agonizing, and her family often comforted her during those times.

"You shouldn't feel discouraged just because your results haven't improved during some period. It may take one year, two years, or even three years, but as long as you persist and continue to love swimming, we will support you," her mother told her.

"Also, it was in 2023 that I felt I grew a lot, perhaps because I experienced many things. Additionally, my mindset has improved a lot," Tang expressed.

On Sunday, Tang participated as a representative in the World Aquatics press conference, where it was announced that Beijing would host the World Championships in 2029, providing her with additional motivation.

"I was fantasizing during the conference that by 2029, I would be considered a veteran. By then, I will lead China to create new history," she said. "This gold medal has given me motivation. As long as you are brave, there will be results. I believe it will be the same at the Paris Olympics."

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