World Para Swimming Allianz Championships
9-15 September

London 2019: Lichao Wang ready for big stage

China’s rising star wants to shine at venue he has long admired on TV 03 Sep 2019
a male Para swimmer with no arms does breaststroke in the water
Lichao Wang won a bronze medal on his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016
By Amp Media | For World Para Swimming

When Lichao Wang competes at the World Para Swimming Allianz Championships in London from Monday it will be the realisation of a dream for the Chinese star.

Now one of the hottest properties in Para swimming, Wang was relatively unknown when the British capital hosted the 2012 Paralympic Games - and like millions of others, he watched on television in awe. 

Having stunned the sport this April by smashing two world records on his World Series debut in Indianapolis, Wang will be among the favourites at the London Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park.

But the 25-year-old will stop for a moment to appreciate how far he has come.

“I watched London 2012 on TV,” Wang said. “At that time, I remember thinking it would be great if I could go and compete in this eye-catching and crowded place one day.

“When I was eight years old I lost my arms due to an accident related to electric shock. 

“At that time, I never thought that I could represent my country by participating in a big competition, contributing to my country and winning honours. 

“I want to thank the country for always caring and giving me the chance to participate and show what I have got in swimming.”

Staying grounded

Wang broke the men’s 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly world records in the S5 class in Indianapolis, firmly establishing himself as one to watch at this year’s World Championships and next year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Wang (centre) is a double world record holder in the S5 class

But while the swimmer seems to have been quietly confident all along, he is determined to stay grounded and not listen too much to the plaudits coming his way.

“I was not surprised at the result [in Indianapolis], since it was almost the same as my self-estimated one,” Wang said. “The feeling at the time was that all my hard work and hard training received great reward.

“Although the result does not mean everything, it shows my ability as a good swimmer.

“But an athlete should not be arrogant, and the results will not change my attitude. I will stay humble.”

Hard work

Wang, who took up swimming aged 13, made his Paralympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, when he won a bronze medal in the men’s 50m butterfly while still competing in the S6 class.

“The Rio Paralympic Games were my first time to participate in a top-class competition,” he said. “I felt very honoured to have won a medal there. 

“Being able to get a bronze medal on my first time, I was happy at the time, but I knew clearly that I still had to work hard.”

That work continues this year with the main focus being London, where Wang has clear targets in mind.

“My goal of participating in the World Championships in London is to win the qualification slot for the Paralympic Games next year. 

“And I hope that I can break more world records in the competition. I am looking forward to all the events I compete in to break through my best results.”

Friendly rivalry

Wang admits that the fact next year’s Paralympics Games will be in Tokyo – so close to their home – could be an advantage for the Chinese team

“It makes it feel close and intimate, I don’t have to tackle a time difference, I don’t have to adapt to the climate. It will let me return to my best condition as soon as possible.

"My goal is of course to win the gold medal.”

While China and Japan may be traditional rivals, Wang insists it is friendly competition, and that his main battle is an internal one.

“I feel that it’s competitive in every race. Fierce competition stimulates and mobilises an athlete’s tenacious fighting spirit to make more self-breakthroughs. My main rival is myself. It is best to break through yourself.”