Ye Shiwen

Ye Shiwen (Chinese: 叶诗文; pinyin: Yè Shīwén; Mandarin pronunciation: [jê ʂɻ̩́ ̌n]; born 1 March 1996) is a Chinese swimmer. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, she won gold medals in the 400 metres and 200 metres individual medley, breaking the world record in the 400 m event and the Olympic record in the 200 m event.

Ye Shiwen
Personal information
National teamChina
Born (1996-03-01) 1 March 1996[1]
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Height1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)[1]
Weight64 kg (141 lb)[1]
StrokesIndividual Medley
Ye Shiwen
Simplified Chinese叶诗文
Traditional Chinese葉詩文

Early life

Ye Shiwen was born in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province in eastern China. Her father Ye Qingsong was a runner in his youth, and her mother Ning Yiqing, who was a champion long jumper at school, works for a washing machine company.[2] She started swimming at the age of six after her kindergarten teacher noticed she had large hands and feet, joining the Chen Jinglun Sport School in the city.[1][2] She won the 50m freestyle at the 2006 Zhejiang Provincial Games.[3] She was on the provincial swimming team by 2007 and the Chinese national team by 2008,[2] attending the national junior training camp for two months beginning from October of that year.[4]

She trained in Brisbane, Australia with two world-class coaches, Ken Wood and Denis Cotterell, training that Ye described as "really harsh but helpful".[5][2][3] Her coach Xu Guoyi stated in 2011 that the training in Australia had helped Ye improve her two weaker swimming strokes, with her strengths being the backstroke and the freestyle.[2]

Asian Games and World Championships

Aged just 14, Ye swam 4:33.79 in the Women's 400m individual medley at the 2010 Asian Games.[6] She swam 2.09.37 in the 200m individual medley (IM),[6] the fastest time in the world for that year,[2] her time for the 400m IM being the second fastest time in the world for that year.[2] At the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, Ye beat both Alicia Coutts and Ariana Kukors to win the gold medal in 200m individual medley.[2]

2012 Summer Olympics

Women's 400m individual medley

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, in the third heat of the Women's 400m individual medley she swam 4:31.73, an improvement of two seconds over her previous best time at the 2010 Asian Games.[7] In the final she won the gold medal and broke the world record (held by Stephanie Rice since the 2008 Summer Olympics) with a time of 4:28.43, an improvement of a further three seconds, swimming the last 50m in 28.93 seconds.[8][9] Ye's time over the final 50m was compared to that of Ryan Lochte, the winner of the corresponding men's event, who swam it just under a fifth of a second slower in 29.10. This prompted allegations of doping against Ye. However, commentators pointed out that these two times were misleading. Lochte's overall time was 23.25 seconds faster, 4:05.18, than Ye's, and the times of all eight finalists in the men's 400m IM were at least 10 seconds faster than Ye's time. When Lochte hit the freestyle leg of the race, he had a comfortable lead over his opponents, whereas Ye was still a body length behind U.S. swimmer Elizabeth Beisel at that point in her race.[6][10] Phil Lutton, sports editor of the Brisbane Times, observed that Ye "had to hit the burners to motor past Beisel".[6] Data analysis of performances of 2,600 swimmers by two University of Kansas researchers does not find Ye's improvement unusual.[11]

Although there was speculation regarding Ye's significant improvement over a relatively short time,[12][13] Phil Lutton pointed out that Ye had grown from 160 cm at the time of the 2010 Games to 172 cm at the 2012 Olympics, and that "[t]hat sort of difference in height, length of stroke and size of hand leads to warp-speed improvement".[6] Former Olympic swimming champions Ian Thorpe and Adrian Moorhouse said that they had also improved their personal bests due to growth spurts.[14] The British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan stated in a news conference that Ye had passed drug tests and "deserved recognition for her talent".[10][15][16][17]

Women's 200m individual medley

In the 200m individual medley final on 31 July 2012, Ye was in third place at the start of the final leg of the race,[18][19] but she again overtook her competitors in the freestyle leg, winning the gold medal with the time 2:07.57, a new Olympic record.[18][19] In preliminary heats she had swum 2:08.90, the same time that she achieved in the 2011 World Championships and her tenth best time of all time, with splits of 28.16, 1:00.54, and 1:38.17.[20]

2013 World Championships

At the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, Ye failed to medal in any events, finishing fourth in the 200 metre individual medley with a time of 2:10.48 and seventh in the 400 metre individual medley with a time of 4:38.51.

2014 Asian Games

At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Ye won two gold medals in the 200m individual medley with a new games record of 2:08.94 and the 400m individual medley with a new games record of 4:32.97. She also helped China win the gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle.

2015 World Championships

Ye failed to win any medals at the 2015 World Championships. In the 200m individual medley, she reached the final but placed last with a time of 2:14.01, more than three seconds behind seventh place. In the 400m individual medley, though being the world record holder in the event at that time, she missed a spot in the final, clocking in at 4:42.96.

2016 Summer Olympics

At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Ye qualified as fourth fastest for the final of the 200 m individual medley, but finished 8th in the final. In the 400 m individual medley, she failed to qualify for the final.

2019 Chinese Nationals

At the 2019 Chinese Nationals in Qingdao, China, 23-year-old Ye got 3 individual gold medals in Women's 200&400m individual medley and 200m breaststroke. She found success in 200m IM with a time of 2:09.24 which was her fastest time since the Rio Olympics.[21] She also topped the podium with 4:37.57 in 400m IM and 2:23.46 in 200m Breaststroke (New personal best). Of her swim, Shiwen stated, “Compared with 200m IM and 200m breaststroke, 400 IM was the weakest part of my events. But it was a good sign that I am a reborn swimmer.” (Xinhuanet)[22]


Personal bests

Long course (50 m)

Event Time Meet Date Notes
200 m IM2:07.572012 Olympics31 July 2012AR, Former OR
400 m IM4:28.432012 Olympics28 July 2012

AR, Former WR

100 m Freestyle0:54.732014 National Swimming Championships14 May 2014
200 m Freestyle1:57.542013 National Swimming Championships4 April 2013
100 m Backstroke1:01.872014 National Swimming Trials17 October 2014
200 m Backstroke2:09.122013 National Swimming Championships7 April 2013
200 m Breaststroke2:23.152019 World Championships26 July 2019
200 m Butterfly2:09.392014 National Swimming Trials14 October 2014

Short course (25 m)

Event Time Meet Date Notes
200 m IM2:04.642012 World Championships15 December 2012AR
400 m IM4:23.332012 World Championships12 December 2012AR
100 m IM0:58.362014 World Cup(Beijing Leg)25 Oct 2014AR

See also




Preceded by
Stephanie Rice
Women's 400 metre individual medley
world record holder (long course)

28 July 2012 – 6 August 2016
Succeeded by
Katinka Hosszú
Preceded by
Alicia Coutts
Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year
2011, 2012
Succeeded by
Cate Campbell
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