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UPDATED: August 7, 2015
Chinese Swimmer Ning Takes Historic Win At Kazan Worlds

Swimming world championships debutant Ning Zetao claimed a historic win for China in Kazan on Thursday, grabbing the gold of the blue-ribbon men's 100m freestyle in 47.84 seconds.

Ning, 22, the first Asian swimmer breaking the 48-second barrier in the event, smashed the Western domination tonight and became the first Chinese to win the event in the world top arena.

Ning's victory strengthened China's power in the men's pool, the sprint race in particular. Olympic and world champion Sun Yang has already showed domination in freestyle distance races.

China had made some breakthrough in swimming in recent years. At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Zhang Lin won the first Olympic swimming medal for Chinese male swimmers. At the 2009 Rome worlds, Zhang became the first Chinese man to claim a gold medal at world championships. At the 2012 London Games, Sun Yang won China's first Olympic gold in men's swimming. And in Kazan, Ning won the most important gold in pool for China.

Ning, a lieutenant in the Chinese navy, saluted the national flag during the medal ceremony. "I didn't expect the gold medal. I just want to say I'm Chinese," he said after the duel.

"Winning the gold is like a dream," said Ning, Asian record holder of the event. "I made it. And I show the world that Chinese men can also win the short distance swimming."

The men's 100m free final at worlds had never seen an Asian swimmer for quite a long time. Ning stormed into the final with the second-best time in the semifinals.

"Just getting to the final was a big achievement. I didn't even think about a medal. When I touched the wall I didn't realise I had it," said Ning.

Before coming to Kazan, Ning had collected the men's 50m and 100m free golds at the 2014 Asian Games.

Ning's lethal weapon is the second-half sprint which played a key role tonight. He closely followed Canadian Santo Condorelli at the 50m mark and made a strong sprint in the last meters.

Ning started swimming at the age of eight in a bid to improve his physical health only. But his quick grasp of learning different strokes and techniques attracted local coach Guo Hongyan.

Ning joined the Henan provincial swimming team at the age of 11 and became a member of the Chinese Navy swimming team when he was 14.

At the beginning, Ning's best event was breaststroke and he trained for individual medley for many years. Suffering from a chronic bone calcification on his right knee forced him to focus on short distance freestyle later.

In 2011, Ning faced a setback. Due to taking some specially-cooked meat in the market, he was tested positive for clenbuterol, which led to one year suspension.

But Ning did not give up and took the incident as a path to excellence. In 2014, he was awarded the Best Male Athlete of the Year by CCTV Sports Award.

Now, Ning is eyeing the Rio Olympics. "Now I can think about the Rio Olympic Games," he said. "I hope I can achieve good results in Rio."

In tonight's tough final, Australian star Cameron McEvoy, who had been fastest in the semifinals, took the event's silver in 47.95 and Argentina's Federico Grabich got the bronze in 48.12.

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian of the United States only finished seventh in 48.31.

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2015)

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