A Fresh Face, and Questions, in the Pool for China

The New York Times looks at the surprise gold in women’s swimming won by newcomer Liu Zige:

Who was this 19-year-old swimmer who had never competed in an international meet before? How had she shaved more than a second off the world record in the 200-meter butterfly? And how had her teammate Jiao Liuyang also surpassed the old record in claiming the silver medal?

[…] There were no easy explanations after the race. Liu’s coach angrily denied the suggestion by Western reporters that Liu might have slipped through China’s antidoping dragnet. Neither Liu nor Jiao has ever been caught doping. Or perhaps they, too, were the beneficiaries of the high-tech seamless bodysuits in which so many swimmers have broken records here. And the howling Chinese fans who dominated the stands on Thursday undoubtedly provided a kinetic lift.

A more likely explanation for Liu’s success, however, is that she is an exceedingly successful product of Project 119, the government training program that uses limitless resources and relentless training to increase the country’s precious medal intake.


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