China’s star swimmer Ning Zetao won the men’s 100--meter freestyle at the National Games on Monday with a sensational 47.92 seconds, his best performance in two years.
Ning was barred from the national team training since the end of the Rio Olympic Games due to a sponsorship conflict. He only resumed training in May this year.
His performance on Monday matches the fourth fastest at the men’s 100-meter freestyle final at the swimming world championships in July.
Ning kept silent since the heats, but finally spoke to the media after being awarded the gold medal.
"I only trained for three months; it was actually a little difficult for me to win, but I was lucky my form stayed consistent," Ning told the news conference.
Ning’s physical appearance attracted hundreds of fans to the venue. Nicknamed "Baozi," Ning is scheduled to compete in the men’s 50-meter freestyle, with the heats starting Tuesday morning.
Ning mainly prepared for the National Games in Australia, which he described as having a "new lifestyle" with his personal Australian coach Matthew Robert Brown.
Compared to his win at the National Games in 2013, Ning said the past four years have changed him a lot.
"It’s four years full of -changes; I have grown up from a boy to a man," Ning said. "I must thank everyone who encouraged me to get back to the swimming pool."
At his 2013 triumph, he was representing the PLA team, but earlier this year he retired from the navy and now represents his hometown Henan Province at the National Games.
Many netizens said that Ning deserves a return to the national team.
Also on Monday night, distance swimming star Sun Yang won his fourth gold medal in the 800-meter race with a time of 7:46.80.
But Sun hinted he wants to compete in the 100 meters and break the 48-second mark in the future, with a marquis duel between Sun and Ning highly anticipated among the fans, which may decide who is China’s top swimmer.
Earlier on Monday, Zhang Yufei of Jiangsu Province claimed the women’s 200--meter butterfly in a time of 2:09:17, a breakthrough for the 19-year-old. Zhou Yilin of -Hebei Province finished second.
In the men’s 200-meter breaststroke, Qin Haryana of the PLA team stunned Yan Zibei of Hubei with a national record-setting time of 2:07.35.