QINGDAO, China, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Triple Olympic champion Sun Yang's domination in freestyle events remains unshakable in China, after he swept five individual titles at the Chinese National Swimming Championships.
After almost eight months away from competition, the 25 year-old Sun took part in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle events in Qingdao and collected all five gold medals in eight days.
His winning marks in the 200m and 400m freestyle are both at the top of this year's world rankings so far.
"I did feel tired, but it's a good practice for me, and I'm happy that I managed to fulfill the plan," said Sun.
Sun can easily be regarded as the most successful Chinese swimmer of all time. The three-time Olympian took gold medals in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle at 2012 London Games and clinched the title of the 200m freestyle four years later in Rio.
But such honors never come easy. While preparing for Rio Olympics, Sun's metatarsal bones of his left foot were fractured twice and he hardly trained for six months ahead of opening of the Games.
Sun Yang insisted that he would try his best to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games, but the freestyle specialist did hesitate about quitting the pool after last year's Rio Olympics.
"Day after day, no matter summer or winter, you have to get up so early and swim in the pool repeatedly. Everybody might go nuts sometime," said Sun.
"During the championships, sometimes I left the aquatic center at 10p.m. All the lights were turned off and all the gates were shut. We had to find a back door to go out," he said.
Although he brought home golds, Sun's physical condition was far from excellent.
"I had a stomachache during the winter training and kept taking medicine until now, and I even eat less than a girl," Sun said, adding that his back and shoulders hurt in the 1,500m final.
"To keep fighting is never easy," Sun said.
As the captain of the Chinese swimming team, Sun hoped that he could be a model for his young teammates, and some of them did finish well at the championships.
Xu Jiayu, a 21-year-old, broke the Asian record in the men's 100m backstroke with 51.86 seconds, only 0.01 second shy of the world record, and took his own national records in the 50m and 200m backstroke.
"My upper body strength has been enhanced and I'm happy that I improved my personal bests this time," said Xu, who grabbed the silver medal in the 100m backstroke at the Rio Games and four golds at the championships.
Yan Zibei from Hubei province, also 21 years old, took down the national records of the men's 50m and 100m breaststroke.
"I don't think too much about Olympics, and I will try my best to improve the scores step by step. In this year, my main object is the National Games," Yan said.
Just turning to 18-year-old in January, Li Zhuhao, Sun's provincial teammate from Zhejiang, broke the national record in the men's 50m butterfly and pocketed three gold medals.
The Chinese Navy's Qin Haiyang, 17, broke two world junior records and the national record in the men's 200m breaststroke, and his marks in 200m individual medley rank in this year's third position worldwide.
"I am surprised I swam so fast. Perhaps it's my winter training that made it happen," Qin said.
But Ye jin, Qin's coach, said she had foreseen the results. "His techniques have been improved a lot, and I think he has a bright future," she said.
On women's side, Fu Yuanhui, 21, improved her personal best in the women's 100m backstroke as she set a national record of 58.72 seconds, 0.04 seconds faster than her Olympic bronze medal winning time in Rio last year.
Li Bingjie's marks in 400m and 800m freestyle are only inferior to double Olympic champion Katie Ledecky's in this year's world rankings.
"Li Bingjie is only 15, and other female swimmers are very young as well. Their performances are satisfying this time, and we need to give them more time," said Liu Haitao, a coach for China's national swimming team.
"I hope the youngsters can train as hard as they can and get the best possible marks in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games," said Liu.