August 13, 2016 2:08:33 am
China’s world record holder and Olympic 1,500 metres freestyle champion Sun Yang blamed fever and flu medication for his failure to qualify for the Rio final.
Sun, who has already won a 200 metres freestyle gold and 400 metres silver and also become embroiled in a “drugs cheat” controversy, was 16th fastest overall in Friday’s heats with the top eight going through to Saturday’s final.
Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, the world champion, was fastest in 14 minutes 44.51 seconds.
Sun, who set his record of 14:31.02 at the London 2012 Olympics, laboured through the heat and touched the wall in 15:01.97 — more than 30 seconds off his best.
“I feel better today but the past two days were worse,” he told reporters, saying he had resorted to flu medication. “I was afraid of catching a fever and affecting my other races so I had no choice but to increase the dosage.
“I didn’t expect my body’s condition and skill to deteriorate so quickly.”
Sun added that his muscles had been tired after the 800 metres race and the late nights of the Rio swimming programme had also taken a toll.
“I’ve been training in the U.S. for a while, and now I’ve suddenly come to Brazil, this has knocked my body clock and I find myself staring at the ceiling…awake at 3 or 4 a.m.,” added the swimmer.
The swimmer, the first Chinese to win gold in the pool, also missed the 1,500 metres final at last year’s world championships in Russia when he made a shock withdrawal.
China’s most successful male swimmer said at the time that he had felt uncomfortable while warming up.
His presence in Rio was already controversial, with the run-up to the Olympics overshadowed by a Russian doping scandal, since it emerged in 2014 that he had secretly served a three-month ban after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
China opted for a lenient punishment because Sun had been given medication, which had only just been added to the banned list, to treat a heart issue.
Australian swimmer Mack Horton, who qualified fourth fastest for the 1,500 metres final, stirred up a social media storm when he branded Sun a “drug cheat” before their 400 metres final on Saturday.
Horton went on to win that gold, with Chinese web-users bombarding his social media accounts and state media calling Australia “uncivilised” and “Britain’s offshore prison”.
Sun’s failure came after Chinese female swimmer Chen Xinyi was a no-show in the 50 metres freestyle heats.
Chinese state media, citing the country’s swimming association (CSA), said Chen had tested positive for a banned substance on Aug. 7.
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