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Faces of the Games| The remarkable journey of Ye Shiwen

www.ehangzhou.gov.cn| Updated: September 26, 2023 L M S


Ye braves the waves. [Photo/hangzhou2022.cn]

To help the Chinese swimming team prepare for international competitions like the Tokyo Olympics, Ye took two study breaks, spending two years longer than usual to obtain her degree. Her first study break, taken to focus on the Tokyo Olympics, saw her struggle to complete even a third of her teammates' training upon her return. However, after overcoming the mental barrier, she returned to the pool with a smile and a more carefree attitude. She still yearned for victory but was no longer afraid of defeat.

At the 2019 World Championships, Ye won a silver medal in the 200m individual medley, marking her return to the world stage after seven years. She hung the medal around Xu's neck, saying, "It was a process of conquering myself, and I enjoyed it immensely." During the championships, she also finished fourth in the 200m breaststroke, finding a new focus outside the medley events.

The following year, her mentor Xu passed away due to illness, another heavy blow for Ye. After grieving, she once again examined her swimming career. "I can still swim!" she realized. After the 2021 Shaanxi National Games, she threw herself into her studies once more. When she returned to the pool in September 2022, Ye exclaimed, "My brain remembers, but my body can't find those muscles."

Her first comeback was tough, requiring mental conditioning. However, this time, returning for the Hangzhou Asian Games at the age of 27, Ye was more experienced and knew how to recover her form quickly. "I was training well before, and I had hoped to swim under 2 minutes and 9 seconds. It's a bit of a shame," she remarked.

Although she didn't secure another gold, Ye admitted that seeing the national flag rise made her eyes well up with pride. "I feel proud and happy for my fellow countrymen. I'm proud to see Chinese swimming take a prominent position in the world."

As the lyrics of the song Over the Hills by Jonathan Lee go, "Beyond the hills, I discovered no one waiting; chatter endlessly, and warmth will never return." Lee spent a decade writing this song, and it encapsulates a life lesson that resonates with many. Ye, a familiar figure who fought in the world of swimming for 20 years, reached the peak, fell into a valley, and was almost forgotten. Fortunately, after crossing those hills, she rediscovered herself, and countless people are still waiting for her, offering her warmth along the way.

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