Chinese swimmers ready to challenge Phelps

July 17th, 2008 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 17 (Xinhua) Wu Peng, one of China’s best swimmers, said he was ready to challenge American phenomenon Michael Phelps’ dominance at the forthcoming Olympic Games. “There is less than a month ahead of the event and I will seize every minute to raise my form,” Wu said between training sessions in China’s southeast plateau province Yunnan.

The 21-year-old swimmer has become the flag-bearer of the Chinese swimming squad and is one of the team’s best hopes to win an Olympic medal at the Beijing Games.

“I hope I would be among the ones who stand on the podium and I believe that my dream will come true soon.” Wu said.

The young swimmer has reason to be confident.

As a 14-year-old, Wu grabbed two golds at the ninth Chinese National Games in 2001. One year later, the teenager defeated more heralded Japanese to bag three golds in the 200m butterfly, the 400m individual medley and the 200m backstroke at the Asian Games.

Regarded as the most promising male swimmer in China, Wu came in a disappointing sixth in the 2004 Olympics instead of a predicted medal finish.

The fourth position in the 50m freestyle won by Jiang Chengji in Atlanta 1996 is still the best result by a Chinese male swimmer in the Olympic Games.

Wu said he was too young then for a big match like that, but now he is ready. “I won’t let the chance slip away,” he said.

In last year’s Melbourne World Championships, Wu was second only to Phelps, who keeps the event’s world record at 1:52.09 seconds.

He also created his personal best of 1:54.82 at a national Olympic trials competition in March. The clocking could have placed him fifth in the event’s world ranking this year.

Phelps seems to be a formidable obstacle for Wu as the American has set 25 world records (22 individuals and 3 relays) to approach Mark Spitz’s record of 33 (26 individual and 7 relay).

At the Olympics, people start to expect the wunderkind to break Spitz’s 36-year record - seven gold medals at one Olympic Games.

“There is still a gulf between me and Phelps, but I will do my best to bridge it,” Wu said.

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