Valuing growth more than golds

August 8, 2022 0 Comments

 ,Olympic champion Zhang Yufei tells China Daily why keeping a sense of perspective is key to her career,Having collected three bronze medals at the FINA World Championships in Budapest last month, Chinese swim star Zhang Yufei missed out on the title that would’ve secured a “golden grand slam”.,Far from being despondent, however, the 24-year-old butterfly specialist has vowed to learn from the experience, recalibrate, and go for more glory in the buildup to the 2024 Paris Games.,”In terms of my career, I don’t think that only gold medals are meaningful. The world championships were my first major international meet after winning the Tokyo Olympics. So this time, I’ve grown more psychologically,” Zhang told China Daily show Gen Z’s Words, which went online Monday.,Zhang had entered the worlds in Budapest aiming for an elusive gold in the 200m butterfly to add to her Olympic and short-course world titles in the discipline.,That task was made considerably tougher by her heavy schedule in the Hungarian capital, where she competed in seven events, depriving her of even a single day’s rest at the championships.,Described as a “model worker in the pool” by media, fans were also mightily impressed by Zhang’s diligence, which was rewarded with bronze medals in 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.,Those results didn’t quite meet Zhang’s own lofty standards. The young star told China Daily that, despite her hard work, she was not in absolute peak condition for the grand slam bid.,”Two races a night during an eight-day competition were actually pretty challenging for me,” she said.,”I just told myself not to overthink it. As my coach told me, take one bite at a time. I just did whatever I could to perform well in every race. One event finishes, and then I go for the next.”,Zhang became a household name in China last summer when she bagged four medals at the Tokyo Olympics.,After powering to the 200m butterfly title in an Olympic-record time, Zhang topped the podium again in the 4x200m freestyle relay, before taking silver in the 100m butterfly and 4x100m mixed medley relay.,Competing in her fourth worlds in Budapest, Zhang cited mental pressure as one of the main barriers to grabbing gold again.,”Ever since winning the 200m butterfly gold at the Tokyo Olympics, I started to attract more global attention. I felt that if I didn’t perform well, I would let people down and feel guilty,” said Zhang, who won three bronze medals in total at the 2015 and 2017 worlds.,”This burden became heavier and heavier, until my coach gave me great advice. He told me just to shake off your burden and give it all you have in the pool.,”Before the Tokyo Olympics last year, I was chasing the world’s top swimmers and the top podiums. But after the Tokyo Games where I reached the highest podium, I became the one being chased by others, the target of others. Now the biggest rival, sometimes, is myself.”,Having processed the stresses and strains of her Budapest campaign, Zhang is more determined than ever to pursue her dreams in the pool.,”Since 2018, the pressure on me has increased steadily year by year. And after I won the Olympics, the responsibility has grown even bigger. But I will face my weaknesses and see what I can improve. Then I can make it better,” Zhang added.,”My dreams won’t change, which include the golden grand slam of 200m butterfly, as well as the world title for 100m butterfly.”,Away from the pool, Zhang is a curious participant in many other sports, which she credits for helping her identify areas she can improve on physically.,”I tried rowing before. I thought my core strength was strong enough to control the boat, but I was proven wrong. And they said, ‘How come an Olympic champion’s core strength is that weak?” said Zhang.,Through her hard work in the pool and sporty lifestyle, Zhang hopes to encourage more people, especially the young generation, to embrace sports and chase their dreams.,”When I was a kid, sometimes I would hide in the bathroom to avoid training. But if the younger version of Yufei saw the current me and what I achieved, I think she would come out of the bathroom at once,” said Zhang.,”Because I know she wanted to one day become a world champion and an Olympic champion. Now children consider me an idol. It is actually a very happy thing. I will always set myself a goal to chase.”