China’s Olympic champion Sun Yang showed a softer side to his gnarly public image on Sunday by lavishing compliments on rival Japanese swimmer Kosuke Hagino at the Asian Games.
The towering Chinese topped the time sheets in the morning’s 200 metres freestyle heats in Jakarta in a leisurely one minute, 47.58 seconds before being reminded about an unseemly diplomatic row he sparked at the last Asian Games in 2014.
Furious after being ambushed by Hagino in the 200m free in Incheon, Sun branded Japan’s national anthem “ugly” — not the first time the three-time Olympic gold medallist has become involved in a war of words.
“Look, I think Hagino is a good guy,” Sun told reporters. “The way he swims the individual medley is an inspiration to me. We should be working together to raise the level of Asian swimming.