Jakarta: Five athletes who could light up the Asian Games swimming competition, which begins on Sunday
Sun Yang (China)
The beefy Chinese has won three Olympic freestyle gold medals and is almost unstoppable when he’s in the mood. Tough as nails, Sun bounced back from losing his Olympic 400m title in Rio two years ago with an emotional victory in the 200m free after being accused by rivals of being a “drug cheat”. Few would bet against him scooping a fistful of gold in Jakarta.
Kosuke Hagino (Japan)
A man on a mission after American Chase Kalisz’s recent rise, the Japanese is another who captured gold in Rio, winning the men’s 400m individual medley and taking silver behind Michael Phelps in the 200m IM despite struggling with an elbow injury. Hagino will be favourite to do the medley double for the second successive Asian Games and restore dented confidence.
Rikako Ikee (Japan)
With her ultra-bright smile and tendency to sob tears of joy after winning races, Ikee is her country’s new darling of the pool. The 18-year-old Tokyo Olympic hope melted hearts when she snatched Pan Pacific gold in the 100m butterfly earlier this month. Ikee will be buzzing after also taking silver in the 200m freestyle and is poised for a big week in Jakarta.
Joseph Schooling (Singapore)
After bursting onto the scene by winning gold in the 100m butterfly at the last Asian Games in 2014, Schooling stunned Phelps in the 100m fly at the Rio Olympics in the great American’s final individual race before retiring. His form has dipped since but his bronze medal at last year’s world championship will have acted as a wake-up call for Singapore’s most famous athlete.
Dmitriy Balandin (Kazakhstan)
Following a breakout breaststroke treble at the 2014 Asian Games, Balandin became Kazakhstan’s first-ever Olympic swimming champion when he won gold in the 200m two years ago. However, he has suffered a hefty Rio hangover and the 23-year-old Almaty native will need to rediscover his mojo to hold off Japanese pair Yasuhiro Koseki and Ippei Watanabe in Jakarta.