Zheng on a learning curve at Glasgow 2015

The ‘armless swimmer’ is hoping he can learn from opponents and protect his own world record and titles at the Worlds. 11 Jul 2015
A swimmer without arms begins his race.

China's Tao Zheng swims during the men's 50m freestyle S6 during the IPC Swimming World Championship at Parc Jean Drapeau on August 14, 2013 in Montreal, Canada.

ⒸGetty Images
By Abdullah Mahmood | For the IPC

“My main target for the World Championship is to watch and learn from the other swimmers to see how they have been doing, so that I can better prepare myself for Rio.”

China’s double world champion Tao Zheng is hoping that an injury plagued season does not derail his attempts to defend his titles at the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Great Britain, from Monday (13 July).

“Because of the training and my physical condition, I didn’t have time to try something new,” the 24-year-old said. “The high intensive and busy training was a little bit stressed and tiring.

“However I believe that a focus on training will help me be better prepared for the coming World Championships. I love swimming as always because it brings me happiness and confidence.”

Zheng is one of the world’s most instantly recognisable para-athletes thanks to his exploits in the pool at London 2012, where he won gold in the 100m backstroke S6. A video of his race went viral and he picked up the name ‘the armless swimmer’.

But while he will be going into Glasgow a little underprepared as far as competitive swimming is concerned, Zheng will be using the World Championships to keep a close eye on his rivals.

“My main target for the World Championship is to watch and learn from the other swimmers to see how they have been doing, so that I can better prepare myself for Rio.

“World championship means a lot to Rio, it acts like the last rehearsal to the big show, the prelude. It is the best opportunity to learn from your opponent.”

One such rival is compatriot and friend Qing Xu, who Zheng edged out for 50m butterfly S6 gold at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, Canada. Xu won that particular contest at London 2012.

Zheng knows it will be tough but is hoping his old friend will be at his best this summer.

Zheng is also keeping his own world record in the 100m backstroke in mind as he looks ahead to Glasgow 2015, admitting that it is hard not to feel the pressure around it.

“To keep or break a record, one will need opportunity as well as efforts. It is impossible to feel free about a record, both for the maker and the others who tried to break it, but pressure will motivate potential.”

He is also well aware that his record, and any other for that matter, can be a serious incentive for his opponents especially with the increasing competitiveness of para-swimming.

“I have high expectations to break my own record. Meanwhile I know it very well that para- swimming is a competitive sport now, and the record could be broken any time.

“There are so many talented swimmers who work so hard, but I will see myself the biggest opponent. I have been competing with myself and I will try to defeat myself.”

The 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships will feature around 580 athletes from nearly 70 countries and will be one of the biggest qualification opportunities for Rio 2016.

Tickets are still available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Glasgow2015 and all seven days of action will be shown live at Glasgow2015.com alongside live results between 13-19 July.

Fans can also follow @IPCSwimming on Twitter and Facebook and Paralympics Instagram for behind-the-scenes updates and pictures.