Li Bingjie & Wang Jianjiahe, 15, Go 8:20, 8:22 in 800m; Liu Xiang Blasts 24.04 Asian Dash Mark

Li Bingjie - by Patrick B. Kraemer

There are now six Chinese swimmers, five of them teenagers and the fastest two of them, on 8:20 and 8:22, among the swiftest 15 in the world over 800m freestyle this year, the podium at the 13th China Games in Tianjin in the global top 7. Top of the tree today was Li Bingjie, the schoolgirl from Hebei who on 8:15 back at world titles in Budapest pressed the pace of outstanding American ace Katie Ledecky. Li, Asian records of 4:01 and 15:52 in the bag over 400m and 1500m this week, set the pace but also felt the heat herself all the way from go to gold today as fellow-2002-born Wang Jianjiahe, of Liaoning, went through the 400m mark in 4:12.43 and returned in 4:10 for silver in a massive career best of 8:22.70.

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There are now six Chinese swimmers, five of them teenagers and the fastest two of them, on 8:20 and 8:22, among the swiftest 15 in the world over 800m freestyle this year, the podium at the 13th China Games in Tianjin in the global top 7. Top of the tree today was Li Bingjie, the schoolgirl from Hebei who on 8:15 back at world titles in Budapest pressed the pace of outstanding American ace Katie Ledecky. Li, Asian records of 4:01 and 15:52 in the bag over 400m and 1500m this week, set the pace but also felt the heat herself all the way from go to gold today as fellow-2002-born Wang Jianjiahe, of Liaoning, went through the 400m mark in 4:12.43 and returned in 4:10 for silver in a massive career best of 8:22.70.

Comments

Richard Ortiz

Craig, how dangerous would you consider Li Bingjie to be as a rival to Katie Ledecky at the moment and also leading into Tokyo?

Craig Lord

Richard, I don’t think Li B or anyone else we see so far will be a threat to KL at top speed, her world records – Li is 2sec per 100m down on 1500m pace and may, if Chinese trend is to be taken into account, be at her best this and next season; she is more than 1sec down on KL’s best pace per 100m over 800m… and so on… those are big and significant gaps at the peak end of pace. The question, then, may be not what others can do but what KL can do; how long she continue to muster top speed, that question hand in hand with delivery of a big-ask Olympic program as the 1500m joins the list of freestyle targets. The 6-season stretch of KL as pioneering distance ace represents a phenomenal career, curve and level of consistency. Three years to go to the next O Games: a long time in politics – and in then pool, too. If she pulls it off and remains top of the game in even 2 events in Tokyo, KL will have sealed a very special place in the pantheon. Janet Evans never reached the same speed again after those 88-89 seasons but she did keep winning, and she lost a few (some of that to dubious opponents); the 1988-96 period is one among many career paths that reminds us that the changing of the guard often comes down to time on the beat and the need to call a halt rather than the new guard being ‘better and faster’.

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