- Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen smashed world record by a second and her own personal best by five
- Last 50m was slightly faster than men’s gold medallist Ryan Lochte
- U.S. star hails teen’s ‘impressive’ achievement and says she could beat him
- But British presenter controversially suggests win could be down to doping
Ryan Lochte knocked Olympic icon Michael Phelps off his perch on Saturday with a brilliant performance to win the men’s 400m individual medley.
But just minutes later, in the women’s version of the event, a 16-year-old Chinese prodigy performed an even more amazing feat as she smashed the world record and left her competitors far behind.
Ye Shiwen posted such a good time that her final 50m was in fact faster than Lochte’s performance in the men’s event, at just 28.93 seconds.
Her achievement was so unprecedented that it even led some broadcasters to question whether Ye had benefited from underhand practices.
BBC presenter Clare Balding asked former British Olympian Mark Foster, who was in the studio as a pundit: ‘How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?’
Chinese swimming has previously been tainted by drug scandals – another 16-year-old world champion tested positive for doping last month – but Foster sought to play down any suggestion of cheating.
He said: ‘It was a five-second best time and it was the way she did it as well. Bearing in mind she is 16 years of age, and when you are young you do some big best times… it can be done.’
Miss Balding’s question provoked a storm among BBC viewers on Twitter, with many praising her for daring to even hint at the possibility of cheating, but many criticising her for tainting the Chinese swimmer’s achievement and some even calling for her sacking.
China has become embroiled in the first doping controversy of the London Games after one of the world’s most respected coaches described the swimming prodigy Ye Shiwen‘s gold medal performance as “unbelievable” and “disturbing”.
The American John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association, said the 16-year-old’s performance was “suspicious” and said it brought back “a lot of awful memories” of the Irish swimmer Michelle Smith’s race in the same event at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Smith, now Michelle de Bruin, was banned for four years in 1998 after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
Ye stunned world swimming on Saturday by winning gold in the 400m individual medley in a world-record time. It was her final 100m of freestyle, in which she recorded a split time of 58.68sec, that aroused Leonard’s suspicion. Over the last 50m she was quicker than the American Ryan Lochte, who won the men’s 400m individual medley in the second-fastest time in history .