No time for rest as 'Butterfly Queen' turns accidental hero

Sports | AGENCIES 30 Jul 2021

Zhang Yufei aimed to relax after winning the 200 meters butterfly yesterday, but a late change of plan meant she ended the morning with two gold medals rather than one.

The 23-year-old snared gold in the butterfly with an Olympic record, adding to a silver she took on Monday in the 100m fly.

An hour later she joined China's 4x200m freestyle relay team, who won in world record time.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. Zhang was to unwind after her individual final in preparation for the 50m freestyle heats today, but her coach pitched her into the relay without warning - a masterstroke.

"Our coach told me, 'you're in,'" she said. "I didn't even know how to swim the 200 free relay, although I have the training for the distance."

Xuzhou-born "Butterfly Queen" Zhang is one of the stars rising out of the shadow of Olympic and world champion Sun Yang being banned over doping. She had finished sixth in the 200m butterfly in her Olympic debut in Rio 2016, and admitted it was "tough."

This time, Zhang, runner-up to Canada's Margaret MacNeil in the 100m, touched the wall in 2:03.86 for the 200m butterfly, well ahead of Americans Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger to win China's first swimming gold in Tokyo.

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