Ye Shiwen at the event [Xinhua]
London Olympic swimming wunderkind Ye Shiwen has made a comeback that she dreamed in the past few years at China's National Games.
Stumbling in the women's 400m medley, the former Olympic and world champion was able to finally lift the 200m medley title, clocking 02:10.91 to record her best time in a year since her disastrous Rio Olympic Games journey.
"I conquered the fear in me," said Ye, with a relieved sigh after Sunday night's competition.
"After I lost the 400m, I couldn't sleep. I had been well prepared for the race and believed that I was in good shape, but the loss almost crushed me," she admitted.
"I started to doubt myself again like before. I was so afraid that fear would catch hold of me again," she continued.
At the tender age of 21, Ye is already a Grand Slam winner, crowned in all the top international competitions, the Olympic Games, the world championships both long course and short course as well as in the Asian Games.
However, as the saying goes: the higher you soar, the harder you fall.
For Ye, the fall has been made especially conspicuous by her unprecedented early achievements -- the youngest-ever Chinese swimming world champion at 15 when she won in the 200m medley in 2011, the first ever Chinese swimmer to take away two gold medals at an Olympic Games in 2012, even ahead of China's all-time best swimmer Sun Yang who clinched his second London Olympic gold medal a few days after Ye's victories.
At 2013 National Games, Ye did not need to break a sweat in bagging both the 200m and 400m medley titles.
Since then, Ye had struggled with problems outside the pool, leaving her nowhere near top competition's podium any more. She failed to bag a single medal at the Rio Olympic Games, the 2015 and the 2017 World Championships. Sometimes, she even failed to make the final.
After probably hitting her last growth spurt a few years ago, Ye started to put on weight and had trouble sleeping at night. She also had to grapple with confidence issues.
"For the past few years I was at a low ebb. Although my daily training went quite nicely, I couldn't bring it to a full display in competitions because every time I competed, I was afraid. I wanted to win as much as I feared to lose," she said.
Hitting rock bottom can often mean one is due to make a comeback. Ye hopes it is true for her.
Her coach Xu Guoyi once suggested she leave swimming behind and go finish her university education first. Ye refused.
"I don't want to let it go. I am extremely self-disciplined in life and absolutely hard working. I want to show all my efforts in the competition. I will not give up. I will continue trying until I win," she said.
"Hopefully, this victory at the National Games will be my first step out of the my past shadows," Ye added.