Chinese top swimmer Wu Peng successfully defended his national title in the men's 200 meters butterfly on Thursday despite a lackluster performance.
Wu clocked one minute 58.43 seconds, more than 3 seconds off his personal best.
"I'm too tired to care the result," said the 2007 world championships runner-up in the 200m butterfly. "But I've never thought that I could lose in national championships as long as I enter the event."
Wu, who entered four individual events and three relays in the six-day national meet, said he was exhausted even before the competition started last Saturday.
"It's my fifth competition within three months. I'm exhausted, but I'm trying to hold on," said the 20-year-old.
Tired as he was, Wu looked quite relaxed during the national championships. He seemed to care more about the Chinese women's soccer team rather than his own races.
When Wu was waiting in the athletes tunnel for check-in ahead of Sunday's 100m butterfly heats, he was happy to find that a journalist brought a laptop and asked her to log on the Internet to search news about women's World Cup quarterfinal between China and Norway.
After stepping out of the pool as the second fast qualifier, Wu walked to the journalist straightway and looked disappointed after knowing China lost 1-0 to Norway.
Since Olympic champion Luo Xuejuan announced her retirement earlier this year, Wu became more and more used to his role as the flag bearer of Chinese swimming.
Bearing the hope of becoming the first ever Chinese male swimmer to win an Olympic medal, Wu breezily shrugged off the pressure.
"I know there will be thousands of Chinese audience watching my races and hundreds of cameras focusing on me at the Beijing Olympics," he said.
"I remembered that I was too nervous to talk after the semifinals at Athens Olympics. But now I could be relaxed during those big competitions."
Wu admires Phelps very much for "he could swim fast in any place and at any time."
"I'm looking forward to improving myself step by step through hard training," said Wu. "I believe that the faster I could swim, the less pressure I would feel."
Wu admitted that American wunderkind Michael Phelps is beyond his reach, but said he is full of confidence to defeat other rivals at next year's Olympic Games.
Wu defended his Asian Games title last December in Doha in a personal best of 1:54.91. Three months later, the butterfly specialist managed to finish right behind the unbeatable Phelps in the four lap race at the world championships.
(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2007)