Tang Yi-Bai washed up and went to bed after posting on Weibo, completely unaware of the uproar caused by his simple sentences .
The fans first reaction was denial . They did not believe it! They did not, they did not! We are your wives! Where did this wife of yours come from? There had been no news at all before this, and suddenly you are no longer single?
Could it be that the previous rumours were true, that he already had a girlfriend? Boo hoo hoo, it couldn't be true! It couldn't be!
Harsh truths were always difficult to accept . Some people even speculated that Tang Yi-Bai's phone might have been picked up by that young cook in the cafeteria . Only that young cook would publish such a unamusing Weibo post like this .
And then, someone suddenly discovered that the cell phone model used to publish this Weibo post did not match Tang Yi-Bai's phone, though it was consistent with Qi Rui-Feng's model .
Heavens, could Qi Rui-Feng be declaring his ownership of Young Master Bai in this manner?
This stray possibility was much easier to accept . The springtime of the shippers was here! They were more overjoyed than if they had received a pardon from the death penalty . They screamed and shouted in jubilation, telling each other all about it wherever they went, gathering together to create stories on the fly . This simple post from Tang Yi-Bai was twisted and moulded into a novella of more than 200,000 words .
Following that, someone finally cooled down and noticed something strange about the whole thing: The World Championships were just around the corner — what was Tang Yi-Bai doing by suddenly publishing such a Weibo post instead on focusing on his training to prepare for the World Championships? Could it be that he already knew he would not be able to do well in the World Championships, and so could only try to keep himself in the public eye in such a way? Oh my god, that must be how it is! These people believed that they had lifted the veil to see the truth — their excitement was no lesser than the other two groups, and so they happily went around exposing Tang Yi-Bai, grinning smugly with a sense of superiority at their intelligence as they waited to be worshipped by the masses .
However, all they received was wave after wave of sieges .
Girlfriend faction: My hubby is not that kind of person! You view everything in such a dark way because your heart is dark!
Shipper faction: Doubting Young Master Bai is the same as questioning our Feng's taste! Is my great mascot husband someone you can insult? Go die, go die!
And what followed after that was a grand melee battle — you attack me, I attack you, and then we gang up to attack him . . .
Media from all paths mobilised in response, but it was in the middle of the night right then so it would be impossible to obtain any comment from the official swimming team channels . Moreover, this news had come on too abruptly — although all the media agencies had heard that Tang Yi-Bai had a girlfriend now, they were unable to get their hands on any convincing evidence . When they tried to dig into who this 'wife' he mentioned could be, the grand melee had already spread throughout the whole internet . Furthermore, lots of other 'exposés' had sprung up as well trying to take advantage of the situation — Tang Yi-Bai had gained a great number of rumoured partners overnight, making it difficult to distinguish between what was real and what was not . Besides that, many people had come forward to claim that they were the one Tang Yi-Bai had spoken of . These were even less believable . . .
Among these self-claims, one came from the verified account with the ID "Reporter Yun Duo" . The account shared Tang Yi-Bai's Weibo post and also claimed that she was the one mentioned . This Weibo was drowned in the vast ocean of misinformation so very few people noticed it .
With the exception of those peers who followed her . Several among them had even personally witnessed how Tang Yi-Bai had chased after her, so they all gave a like to Yun Duo's post .
Of course, they could only give a like right now — after all, all they had seen was just flirting between the two, they couldn't very well say that 'it was their eye contact which told me they were involved', right? Before hearing it straight from Tang Yi-Bai's mouth, everything was merely conjecture . Without evidence, they could not in good conscience go public with it — they were not tabloids, after all .
The next day, from the sports panels to the entertainment panels, Tang Yi-Bai's Weibo post was featured in all major media . The dark and jaded souls out there had to give him a great thumbs-up: Your publicity stunt is very successful .
As for Tang Yi-Bai, the main man himself, he had been harshly scolded by both Wu Yong and Team Lead Xu . He was a sports superstar now, representing the national team . He needed to consider the consequences behind every word and every action — how could he be as impulsive as Qi Rui-Feng all of a sudden? Exposing his personal matters in a fit of whimsy?
Despite the scolding and the criticism, the matter needed to be handled . In the face of this incident, Team Lead Xu and the others whipped out their defensive ability: play dead . . .
If anyone tried fishing for information by beating around the bush, they would pretend not to notice . If anyone asked outright, they would avoid the topic, and if they could not avoid it, they would say that it had nothing to do with them, that this was the private matters of others and so on . In any case, Tang Yi-Bai had already hidden himself away inside the team base where no one could interview him .
Within the media circles, those who knew the truth of the matter, other than the person in question herself, only included Director Liu of Sports Weekly . Director Liu couldn't very well expose his own reporter, right? That would be too vicious, so he could only keep all knowledge of this matter bottled up inside . Ah, he felt so cold and alone holding all this knowledge to himself . . .
In the chaotic mess of public opinion within the country, Yun Duo calmly boarded a flight to England .
In England, Tang Yi-Bai was not as well known, unlike Qi Rui-Feng and Xiang Yang-Yang who had been Olympic champions . Tang Yi-Bai had only began gaining some renown among the English people due to England's own upcoming freestyle star swimmer Bayard . On home ground, Bayard was quite confident . He had discussed his experience training in Australia during an interview . According to his account, the coach named Frank was very good, but he had valued a Chinese athlete, Tang Yi-Bai, more, even going so far as to say that Tang Yi-Bai would become the next world champion . Bayard was disgruntled by this . He felt that he could definitely have beat the other, and reality proved that it was so . He had managed to defeat Tang Yi-Bai soundly in a friendly race .
Those who had finished reading the article on the interview had all remembered the person whom had been defeated by Bayard . Considering the power gap, Bayard would have to fight really hard to beat Sanger and Arbussy — at this time then, a sufficiently weak opponent was needed as a backdrop to showcase their Great Britain hero . Tang Yi-Bai — someone who had been wrongly valued by the coach, who did not have enough skill, who came from China which had been particularly aggressive in recent years — was really just too suited for the role of the villain .
The media adeptly latched onto this point to stir up the public's excitement, and so the English papers had provided a relatively comprehensive introduction on Tang Yi-Bai, even reporting on his break from training due to his injury this year . The reactions of the English readers after reading the reports generally fell into two categories:
— Resuming training 20 days after a bone fracture? Are you kidding me?
— Oh, he took a break because he was injured . Looks like he definitely won't be ranking well then .
Regardless, the break from training due to injury was a fact . The English fans felt that Tang Yi-Bai was no longer a threat to Bayard . Yun Duo saw on XX-websites predictions that Bayard was forecasted to rank 2nd in the 100-metre freestyle, while Tang Yi-Bai would not make it into the top three . As for the betting odds of becoming champion, Sanger's was 2/1, Bayard's was 4/1, and Tang Yi-Bai's? It was actually 35/1!
It was just too much! Tang Yi-Bai's times and Bayard's times were clearly about the same, so why were the odds so different? Was home ground advantage such a big deal? Everyone lives on the same planet, so of course everyone was on home ground!
Yun Duo was indignant and in a fit of pique, she charged to XX-bookie in the store downstairs and placed all of the money on her on Tang Yi-Bai .
The bookie who served her looked at her like she was an idiot .
Yun Duo had been planning to use these British pounds to buy some souvenirs, but now all she received in exchange for them was a thin ticket . She waved the ticket in front of Teacher Sun . "Teacher Sun, I've spent all my money . I don't even have taxi fare left . . . Boo hoo hoo, I can only rely on you after this . I'll pay you back when we return to China . "
Teacher Sun glanced at the contents of her ticket and was flabbergasted . "Yun Duo, have you gone crazy?"
Qian Xu-Dong came over to look as well, and he shook his head and said, "Even though I also hope that Tang Yi-Bai will win, we all know that he won't be able to become champion . How could you be so irrational? What a waste of money . "
Yun Duo said sadly, "You don't understand . " This was probably the power of love — at that instant, she had pushed forwards without thinking and had just bought, bought, bought . She would forever support her Tang Yi-Bai .
Teacher Sun asked Qian Xu-Dong, "Qian, who did you bet on?"
"I bet on Sanger . "
"What a coincidence . Me too . "
From the betting odds, you could tell that most people had bet on Sanger . Yun Duo insisted on staying in Yi-Bai's party — she carefully tucked the ticket away into the depths of her purse . Right now, that's all that her purse was good for .
After that, Yun Duo threw herself into the tightly-packed, hectic schedule of work . She felt that the reason why she had such a large workload was most definitely because the newspaper agency was much too stingy . The management must have decided that England was too expensive and refused to send more people over .
Since arriving in the UK, she and Tang Yi-Bai had not even had the chance to talk on the phone . Due to the time difference, the times he was free just happened to be when the events were at their most intense over here in Liverpool, and by the time she was done with her interviews, he was already asleep . Time flew by rapidly in all the bustle, and it was soon the 3rd of August . On this day, Tang Yi-Bai and company would arrive in Liverpool on a train from London . Yun Duo headed to the train station to gather news about them .
The Chinese athletes appeared wearing standardised uniforms; Yun Duo caught sight of him immediately within the group . He was forever tall and statuesque . He was pushing a large luggage bag and he looked around as soon as he exited the train, quickly spotting her in the crowd .
After that, his eyes never once left her, his gaze twined about her like thread as he strode towards her in large steps .
Yun Duo had finally experienced the feeling of how 'a day apart was like a separation of three autumns' — they had only been separated for about a week, but she realised how much she had actually missed him now that she could finally see him again . She watched as he approached, her heart pounding within her chest, sweet, honeyed words which she really wanted to say to him surging inside her .
Luckily, she did not forget who she was and her role right now . She was here to interview the team — she could not just stare at him alone . As such, she raised her camera and snapped a number of photos, and then turned to interview several of the coaches and athletes .
Tang Yi-Bai really wanted to hug her and kiss her, but this was not the time and place . There were quite a number of cameras around right now .
Thus, he could only walk past her . As he passed beside her, smiling slightly, he raised his head and gave her head a quick rub . Yun Duo heard his whisper softly, "I've missed you so much . "
She bowed her head and smiled, blushing .
On that day, Tang Yi-Bai and company needed to get over their jet lag and adjust to the environment, while Yun Duo went on to report on the diving competition . Only when she went to interview the athletes the next day at their group training did they manage to see each other again .
Tang Yi-Bai exited from the water, and right there by the pool, he composedly accepted a round of interviews . After that, he quietly signalled for her to go wait for him in his dressing room .
Yun Duo had only been in the dressing room for a few minutes when he arrived as well . As soon as he entered the room, before she could say a word, he had pressed her against the door and kissed her fervently, sending her mind scattering . It had been so long since they last saw each other . Their longing for one another burned like fire — his kiss was so passionate, like a tornado sweeping through, but also like a torrent of rain crashing down . Yun Duo bore his kiss, head raised as she embraced him, trying to keep up with him . He was only wearing swimming trunks, so her hand was pressing against the skin of his back . Her soft fingertips rested on his trim yet resilient back muscles, caressing them gently in her excitement .
Tang Yi-Bai released her and said, panting, "I'm going to react soon if you keep doing that . "
She quickly let go of him, flustered .
He laughed lowly and kissed her again, this time soft and gentle, like a light drizzle .
After a lingering moment of tenderness, Yun Duo said, "I have to go . "
"Stay a little longer . "
"No, I can't delay your training . "
"It's fine . These few days will just be conditioning to adapt . The training won't be that intense . "
"Let's get together properly once the event ends . Focus on your races for these next few days . " A brief pause, and then Yun Duo suddenly said with a laugh, "Race well, alright? I've bet all my money on you . "
Tang Yi-Bai pinched her cheek lightly . "So naughty just after a few days here? Gambling now?"
Yun Duo pulled his hand away . "Anyway, you just need to focus on the competition right now . You can do whatever you want once we return home . "
He lowered his head to stare into her eyes and smirked suggestively . "Really? Whatever I want?"
Inexplicably, Yun Duo felt that he wasn't thinking of anything good . She blushed and pushed him aside . "I'm really leaving now . "
"Go . Remember though, whatever I want . "
The swimming events would be held from the 6th till the 13th of August . The greatest potential lode of gold medals in China's men's team was Qi Rui-Feng, while in the women's team, it was Xiang Yang-Yang . Additionally, there was another young girl who was a butterfly stroke swimmer, named Zheng JiXue, who was only 16 years old . She had been doing very well over the last two years, her times constantly improving . This year, she had achieved a great time, which ranked her at number 2 in the world . If she swam well, there was a good chance she would gain a gold medal in this event .
On the first day of the competition, Qi Rui-Feng easily won the gold in the men's 400-metre freestyle . Meanwhile, Ming Tian ranked 13th overall in the men's 100-metre breaststroke semi-finals — he did not do so well and did not manage to make it into the finals . As for the women's team, Xiang Yang-Yang and Zheng JiXue advanced to the finals of the women's 200-metre medley and the women's 100-metre butterfly respectively .
The men's 4x100-metre freestyle relay was selectively abandoned by China . This was one of China's traditionally weak events, one where it was difficult for them to even qualify for the finals . Tang Yi-Bai was an outlier, but his existence was just too valuable and he had just recovered from an injury . Moreover, the times of the other three swimmers were much too far apart — even if he tried his best, he would not be able to affect the final outcome much, thus the team did not wish for him to waste too much effort on this event . As such, even though China was unable to qualify for the finals in the event, they still managed to rank in at overall 11th place under Tang Yi-Bai's lead, which was already better than they expected . This ranking earned the China team a ticket into the Olympic Games next year .
On the second day of the competition, the Chinese ladies displayed their prowess by earning two gold medals in one day, one each from Xiang Yang-Yang and Zheng JiXue . The men's team, in contrast, was not much to look at . Qi Rui-Feng had no finals to swim today, and he easily advanced in the semi-finals of the 200-metre freestyle .
There would be much more to see on the third day of the competition . First up would be Qi Rui-Feng's 200-metre freestyle finals, which would then be followed by Zhao Yue's 100-metre backstroke preliminaries and semi-finals . After that, there would be a completely brand-new event on this day — the mixed 4x100-metre medley relay . This new event, like the mixed 4x100-metre freestyle relay, was a new event being held for the first time ever in the history of the World Championships .
The mixed 4x100-metre medley relay required 2 members each from the men's and women's teams to participate in a swimming relay . The legs would follow the stroke sequence of a regular medley relay: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and then freestyle . Compared to the straightforward basic relay, there was much more uncertainty involved with a mixed relay . It was like a game of strategy — you need to know how to make the right trade-offs to achieve the best possible team .
The last two swimmers in the relay would indisputably be Zheng JiXue and Tang Yi-Bai — the critical question was how to arrange the first two swimmers . They could choose Zhao Yue for the breaststroke and another girl for the breaststroke, or they could choose a girl for the backstroke and let Ming Tian swim the breaststroke . As Ming Tian had not performed too well just before this, he was rather timid now, worried that he would drag his teammates down .
Tang Yi-Bai smiled and said, "With us at your back, what are you afraid of?"
Ming Tian was stunned . "Big bro Yi-Bai, you're such a boss!"
On the field, such dominance was essential . Perhaps because Tang Yi-Bai was generally steadier and more conservative, never boasting or exaggerating, Ming Tian was actually encouraged by his words and became rather eager to volunteer .
Zhao Yue's performance in the semi-finals was not very satisfactory — he ranked 17 overall and did not qualify for the finals . His problem was the deterioration of his condition due to his age . He himself was quite calm over this — after all, he was almost about to retire .
Thus, Zhao Yue could not be relied on to carry the expectations of the team in the new event . In the end, the team decided to let Ming Tian swim the breaststroke in the event . Consequently, the backstroke representative would have to come from the women's team, and after much back and forth, the final decision was for it to be Xiang Yang-Yang . Backstroke was a weakness in both the men's and women's teams . Comparatively, Xiang Yang-Yang's 100-metre backstroke was still decent — at least she would not hold the team back .
That night, in the 200-metre freestyle finals, Qi Rui-Feng won a silver medal .
At 7:30 pm local time, the last event of the day was about to commence . This was a novel and rather unpredictable event, thus drawing the attention of many people . There was not an empty seat in the audience, and the ratings of the live broadcast were also skyrocketing .
There was no doubt that the anchor leg of the relay was the most important one . The Chinese members of the audience all knew that the anchor swimmer Tang Yi-Bai had been injured, and so they did not dare to expect too much for the ranking placements for this particular finals, though there were still some who were grumbling about why Qi Rui-Feng wasn't the one to swim the leg instead .
Xiang Yang-Yang, Ming Tian, Zheng JiXue . . . as the three legs passed the baton forwards, China's placement went up and down, finally settling down in 6th place . However, the gap between the 4th, 5th, and 6th ranks was not obvious — it was possible to catch up with just one spurt of acceleration .
And then Tang Yi-Bai dove swiftly into the water .
As soon as he entered the water, Yun Duo's heart was suspended as she stared nervously at the swimming pool . He was as nimble as a fish — that aesthetic was something that bore looking at again and again without growing old . In the first 20 metres, Tang Yi-Bai easily overtook the distance between him and his Brazilian opponent . When Yun Duo saw this, her heart hung even higher — the lens of her camera went snap-snap-snap as she took picture after picture, and she muttered as she did so, "You must do well, oh, you must do well, Tang Yi-Bai . You must . . . " The foreign reporters did not understand Chinese after all, so she did not feel pressured at all saying all this .
The audience did not have any concerns as she did — they were all screaming and howling in various languages . Yun Duo clearly caught come Chinese people yelling "Tang Yi-Bai" among all the English flying around; these compatriots were really trying very hard .
The race against the French opponent was rather close until the end of the first half of the lap . Just as they were about to turn, Tang Yi-Bai was only a palm's width apart from the French swimmer, but after the turn, the gap widened . Suddenly, at this moment, Tang Yi-Bai accelerated, charging through the waves like a swordfish to overtake the French swimmer .
Another one down! Yun Duo was ecstatic, muttering to herself again, "Hold on, just maintain this and we'll get a bronze medal! Go, go, Tang Yi-Bai!"
Right then, the two teams in the lead were the USA and Japan respectively . Both teams were traditionally strong in medley relays — their times would not be bad no matter what their team composition was like . The Japan team's weakness was the freestyle, but the gap between China and Japan was rather large right now, so it would be somewhat difficult to make up the difference .
Tang Yi-Bai gave chase like a jacked-up motor, and his speed continued to increase . Yun Duo recalled that he had once told her that he could sense the distance between him and an opponent just by the changes in flow within the water, and he could also see his opponents clearly under the water with his goggles . However, he had never deliberately tried to sense the changes in flow nor tried to look for his opponents . He merely charged forwards, forwards, forwards, putting all of his strength in pushing forwards .
He said that it was a very pure and direct feeling — you were only fighting against the water; you have only one opponent .
Yun Duo watched as he cut single-mindedly through the water, and she found her eyes becoming wet as she remembered his words .
The gap between China and Japan was chipped away bit by bit in this way . Many people would be thinking about whether or not they would be able to overtake the other, but probably only Tang Yi-Bai would not think like that . He would just act to bring about this result .
When the swimmers reached the end and was about the touch the wall, Yun Duo's keen eyes clearly saw that the Japanese candidate's head was slightly ahead of Tang Yi-Bai's head by about 2 cm . She sighed, but did not feel particularly regretful . She knew he had truly tried his best .
And then she turned to look at the digital screen, only to find to her surprise that China had ranked 2nd, just 0 . 03 seconds faster than the Japanese team .
Yun Duo was rather stunned but then slapped her head in realisation: Tang Yi-Bai's arms were longer, so of course he had the advantage there .
The audience cheered as Tang Yi-Bai was pulled out of the water by a teammate . He stood by the pool, hands on his knees as he gasped for air . An athlete's heart rate could spike up to 180 after a bout of intense exercise . Yun Duo felt her heart ache at seeing him so tired; she really felt like rushing over to give him a hug .
Of course, she could not really do that .
That night, the gold of the most anticipated event was plucked by the US team, but a Chinese athlete was definitely the greatest surprise of the night . As the anchor leg, Tang Yi-Bai consecutively overtook 3 opponents, charging from 6th place up to 2nd place, scooping up a silver medal for China which had not held much hope to begin with .
This joy came as an absolute surprise .
Most importantly, the former promising Tang Yi-Bai had returned!
On this night, the Chinese media made a big deal about Tang Yi-Bai, not holding back at all in their words of praise, speaking so highly of him that he seemed like a koi which had risen to become a dragon . In contrast, Yun Duo was rather cool and restrained . She did not want the Chinese public to expect too much of Tang Yi-Bai — greater expectations meant greater pressure . She only wished for him to compete to his best ability .
That night, after returning to her hotel room, Yun Duo found that Tang Yi-Bai's odds on XX-website had changed from 35/1 to 6/1 .
Hehe, these foolish Earthlings . If only they had known . . . ╰(￣▽￣)╭
On the 4th day of the competition, Qi Rui-Feng was as domineering as ever, winning the gold medal in the men's 800-metre freestyle finals . Meanwhile, Tang Yi-Bai performed reliably in the his own semi-finals, qualifying for the finals by coming in 4th .
The fifth day of the competition . The most highly anticipated solo event of the tournament would be held on this day — the men's 100-metre freestyle finals .
If the actual weightage had to be assigned to the gold medals, the gold medal from this event would undoubtedly be the heaviest among the solo races . No Asian has ever made it to the podium of this event . Never mind the gold medal, they had never even managed to obtain a silver or bronze medal . Thus, even if Tang Yi-Bai only managed to win bronze, it would still be a historic breakthrough for China and Asians in general . As such, he attracted worldwide attention — not just the Chinese, even the Japanese, Koreans, and Southeast Asians were all hoping he would make a breakthrough . Moreover, he was such a handsome fellow, and so had a significant fan following in the various Asian countries .
At noon that day, under the guise of conducting interviews, Yun Duo ran into the athlete's cafeteria to have lunch with Tang Yi-Bai . She was worried that Tang Yi-Bai would be too stressed out over the competition, so she wanted to help him relieve some of the pressure .
However, Tang Yi-Bai smiled and said, "Why do I feel like you're under more pressure than I am?"
Yun Duo scratched her head embarrassedly .
Tang Yi-Bai ate with a fork in his left hand while he held her hand with his right hand . The two of them really had too little time to spend together, so every second was precious . He always wished he could be closer to her .
After lunch, they ducked into a corner, where Yun Duo hugged him and leaned into his embrace, reluctant to leave . She said, "Tang Yi-Bai, are you in particularly good condition these past two days?"
Tang Yi-Bai stroked her hair and said with a smile, "I'm doing well, but my competitive reflexes have not yet reached their most activated state . "
She raised her head to look at him . "Then what will you do? How can you reach that state?"
He looked at her with a gentle gaze . "There is a seal on me . Help me lift it . "
He closed his eyes and bowed his head a little, presenting his lips .
So Yun Duo hooked him around the neck and stood on her tiptoes to peck him softly on the lips . She said, "A lucky kiss for you . With it, you will definitely be able to swim well tomorrow . "
At 7:15pm local time that night, the men's 100-metre freestyle finals began . The attention on this event was at a pinnacle of its own; the race was star-studded, filled with powerful swimmers . There was a lot of uncertainty in this race — it would not be unusual for any of the participants to become champion . Tang Yi-Bai had qualified with a 4th place ranking, so he was assigned a non-dominant lane and might get splashed by the swimmer before him . The three swimmers ahead of him, in order of their times in the semi-finals, were Sanger, Bayard, and Arbussy . On home ground, Bayard was indeed in very good shape .
Tang Yi-Bai was 1 . 89 metres tall, but standing beside his three rivals, he actually seemed rather thin and small . Yun Duo had once consoled him: "Since you're skinny, you have less surface area and so suffer less water resistance . This is not necessarily a bad thing . " . . . She was just too funny .
He cleared his mind, stood up on the starting block, and took a deep breath .
At the sound of the buzzer, the swimmers rushed to enter the water, the difference in their speeds indiscernible with the naked eye . According to electronical analysis, Tang Yi-Bai's starting time was 0 . 65 seconds, putting him only second to Bayard .
Not bad .
There was no time to reserve strength in an event like this 100-metre race — it was a decisive battle right from the start . This was also the first time Yun Duo was watching a world-class showdown of speed live . Every single one of the swimmers competing in the pool right now was capable of blowing the standards of the Asian Games out of the water . At this moment, the swimmers were all surging in a frenetic rush through the water . They were so fast that it was dizzying to watch .
The cries of the audience shook the heavens . Flags waved as whistles rent the air .
Tang Yi-Bai was pretty much tied for third place with Arbussy since he had entered the water . This was a great start . Yun Duo muttered nervously as she took photos, "Good luck . Go, go, go, Tang Yi-Bai!"
Bayard was in top form, keeping close pace with Sanger, looking like he was going to overtake the other at any moment . The two people in the lead gradually drew away from the other two behind them . Yun Duo knew that if the distance became too much, Tang Yi-Bai would basically have no chance of chasing up to them anymore . His opponents this time were not second-rate swimmers like Yuda Matsushima, but super first-class swimmers . You think only pushing yourself in the latter half of the race will work? Who wouldn't be throwing their all into the second half? Even if you are in the lead, someone else may accelerate, catch up, and overtake you, let alone if you get left too far behind in the front half of the race . Under those circumstances, the best results Tang Yi-Bai could hope for would just be to overtake Arbussy and get a bronze medal .
Yun Duo heart was in her throat . Even though she kept telling herself that a bronze medal was already pretty good, if there was a chance for him to win the gold, who wouldn't wish for him to get a gold medal?
Fortunately, so fortunately, Tang Yi-Bai was keeping the distance in check . Arbussy might be old but he was tenacious, still neck-and-neck with Tang Yi-Bai . In the span of a breath, the race was almost at its halfway point .
Yun Duo knew that the critical moment was coming . Tang Yi-Bai's turns were not the best, but dramatically, his acceleration power after turning was excellent . Thus, even if he might lose out a little during the turn, he would be able to quickly make up for it immediately after coming out of the turn . Yun Duo hoped that things would turn out well this time as well .
Sure enough, after the turn, Arbussy had a slight lead, but Tang Yi-Bai accelerated and that scene against the French competitor the other day was re-enacted . Tang Yi-Bai's accelerated and he shot forward at unprecedented speed to overtake Arbussy!
And his speed was still increasing!
At the same time, as if sensing the threat, the two forerunners also began to accelerate . It wasn't yet the usual stage for sprinting, but all three swimmers had increased their speed — oh, it was actually four swimmers, but unfortunately, Arbussy was unable to keep up with them .
In a tight battle, the better man wins . At this time, the disparity between the truly powerful and the less powerful was revealed . They were all accelerating, but Bayard was left behind by Sanger!
Perhaps Bayard had overexerted himself in the first half of the race, for his forward push seemed to lack power, causing him to finally lose out to Sanger .
However, although Bayard had been thrown off by Sanger, Tang Yi-Bai was still on Sanger's tail . The distance between Tang Yi-Bai and Sanger was practically unchanged . In other words, for a very long stretch, Tang Yi-Bai and Sanger had been moving forwards at the same speed .
In the blink of an eye, Tang Yi-Bai overtook Bayard .
Yun Duo was so excited her camera almost flew out of her hands . He was now in 2nd place! Tang Yi-Bai had overtaken Arbussy, overtaken Bayard, and now the gap between him and Sanger was not that wide . Plus, Sanger was not pulling further away . Tang Yi-Bai was still close on Sanger's heels .
The final thrust — both swimmers accelerated simultaneously!
Sanger's strength was most concentrated and evident in his sprint, because he tended to sprint over a longer distance than other swimmers . With the raise in his speed, the advantage was clear . This was his killing move . But today, Tang Yi-Bai had begun sprinting along with him!
Could this skinny Asian man endure such a long stretch of sprinting?
Yun Duo's heart climbed up to her throat again, not just out of worry, but also some heartache . Her heart was pained on Tang Yi-Bai's behalf, because she knew how horrible it felt . He had told her before that the short-distance freestyle was a form of anaerobic exercise . In the second half of the race, in order to battle it out with speed, oxygen intake would drop drastically . The lungs would feel like they were being squeezed by two large hands, or as if they were being roasted in a raging fire . That pain was torturous, far more than any fatigue he might suffer during training .
Yun Duo knew this . What she did not know was that, at this moment, Tang Yi-Bai suddenly made a dangerous decision — he stopped breathing .
It may be a bit silly to eliminate breathing altogether to increase one's speed, but it was definitely effective .
However, this method was risky and dangerous . During periods of extreme exercise, there was already a great burden on the cardiopulmonary systems of the body . To hold one's breath and push forwards all the way to the end would push one's body to the brink — it was almost suicidal to not take in any oxygen .
Which was why someone had later on dubbed this breath-holding sprint as the 'suicide sprint' .
In actual fact, this type of sprinting was not only very risky, what's even more obvious intuitively is the agony felt by the body . It was a torture among tortures that not anyone could endure .
What's more, to even push forwards with all one's strength while experiencing such agony . Even the ten great tortures of the Qing dynasty did not go that far .
Right then, Tang Yi-Bai was holding his breath, abandoning all distractions . The agony seemed to coexist with him, rooted within his body, and so his mind accepted it completely . He was in such pain, but he would not stop for the pain . He did not pay any attention to Sanger's position; he focused on making his own waves in the water . Stroke, stroke, stroke . . . the water sluiced past him rapidly . He forged forwards in solitude within the world of water, never stopping .
Racing was a sport involving many people, but swimming was a solitary realm .
At this moment, the shouts of the audience were about to shatter the roof — the decibels were loud enough to qualify as sonic weaponry . Yun Duo found herself entering a trance within the cacophonous thunder of cheers .
What was she seeing?
The gap between Tang Yi-Bai and Sanger was narrowing . It was really narrowing . . . very slowly, bit by bit, but it was indeed narrowing . . .
She rubbed her eyes and watched the extreme duel between two top-class masters of their field . Sanger was in the prime of his career, just like how Arbussy was formerly . Previously, there were reports that claimed he was unbeatable . Even the British media who lavished praises upon Bayard had not dared to suggest the possibility of beating Sanger, because even uttering the words were ludicrous .
But now, as the two swimmers were sprinting forwards like arrows flying from bow-strings, Tang Yi-Bai was incrementally decreasing the gap between himself and Sanger . . . this meant that, at least at this very moment, Tang Yi-Bai's speed was greater than Sanger .
That was too incredible . Yun Duo completely forgot about taking photos . Her hands covered her lips for fear that she would lose control and cry out .
The distance between them was decreasing, like the final pile of snow in the early spring slowly melting away under the warm rays of the sun, shrinking smaller and smaller until it disappears completely .
This close race, this silent change made goose bumps rise up all over her skin and she shivered .
Not 2 metres away from the end line, Tang Yi-Bai managed a reversal! By the time the swimmers touched the wall, it was very clear . There was no need at all to look at the digital screen . It was Tang Yi-Bai! It must be him . The champion must be Tang Yi-Bai!
Hands over her mouth, Yun Duo's tears spilled over uncontrollably .
Some Chinese members of the audience had leapt out of their seats, while some were hugging each others as they cried . Yun Duo blinked her eyes rapidly, sneaking a sheepish glance at Teacher Sun beside her, only to find that Teacher Sun was also crying . She then looked towards Qian Xu-Dong who wasn't too far away, and she saw that he was crying too .
Tang Yi-Bai, 47 . 58 seconds, quicker than Sanger by 0 . 05 seconds . This time set a new record for the tournament .
This was a historical moment, absolutely deserving of commemoration by the Chinese people . Here, on a top world stage, in the men's 100-metre freestyle, Tang Yi-Bai had become the fastest swimmer in the world .
He was also the first Chinese national in this event, as well as the first Asian .
Absolutely unprecedented .
At the finish line, Sanger gave Tang Yi-Bai a friendly high-five . Tang Yi-Bai staggered from the contact and almost lost his footing within the pool . Sanger gave him a hand to support him .
And then some staff helped to pull Tang Yi-Bai out of the water .
Tired, oh so tired . He stood by the edge of the pool, gasping for breath, not even able to speak . Only after resting for a long while did he manage to straighten up enough to leave .
As he walked towards the media area, he caught sight of Yun Duo looking right at him . Her eyes were red-rimmed — it was clear to see that she had been crying . She looked like a rabbit .
Once the TV interview ended, Yun Duo came over to see him and she said softly, "I love you, Tang Yi-Bai . "
Some of the reporters from China covered their mouths in surprise, while others were relatively calmer . Some reporters had even turned on their phone cameras, and the cameraman from the TV station had also cleverly turned his lens to point at them .
When Tang Yi-Bai heard Yun Duo's sudden confession, his heart rate which had just calmed down began to speed up again . He disregarded everything else around him, clasping her by the back of her head and kissed her .
Cheers came from around them .
Yun Duo's face flushed bright red . It wasn't just the media, there were also people in the audience taking photos, you know . Bro, could you try to keep more of a low profile . . . ?
Tang Yi-Bai released her and rubbed her head . "I love you too, Duoduo . "
And then he left, to change in preparation for the upcoming awards ceremony and accompanying press conference . Yun Duo stood in place, dazzling lights flashing in her face, so many that she could hardly keep her eyes open .
The press conference for the men's 100-metre freestyle finals would be held shortly after the awards ceremony . The outcome of this race had been completely unexpected, so many of the reporters, whether from China or otherwise, were all eagerly huddled in the conference hall, waiting to uncover all sorts of news . As Yun Duo had just been kissed by Tang Yi-Bai, she was feeling rather shy, hiding herself away in a corner . In fact, the foreign journalists were all more interested in the question of how 'Tang Yi-Bai became champion just out of the blue', as for him kissing his girlfriend after the race, that was just a minor bit of icing on the cake .
Tang Yi-Bai had studied oral English for a year with Yun Duo; even though he had not been very serious while studying, always teasing her, he had still learned enough to handle the media . He spoke fluently without making any mistakes in pronunciation . Coach Wu sat beside him, in such high spirits it was like he was flying .
Several questions later, a reporter suddenly stood up and asked Tang Yi-Bai in very proper English — at one point, you stopped training due to an injury . You recovered so rapidly after your injury and your performance improved so drastically . This is truly unbelievable, beyond the imagination of the ordinary people . So, I would like to ask if you relied on any medicinal supplements with stimulating effects?
This was pretty much outright asking whether you were taking any steroids or stimulants .
Yun Duo was enraged . How dare they? Suggesting that someone was on stimulants just because they couldn't beat him? How shameless!!
Coach Wu's expression turned ugly . He adjusted his microphone, and Tang Yi-Bai had the feeling that he would have nothing nice to say if he opened his mouth and may be caught in a bad spot . He pressed down on Coach Wu's arm .
He looked towards Yun Duo and saw her indignant expression . This reminded him of that autumn day back then when he had been unfairly questioned . She had looked like this too back then, so angry that her face was all scrunched up, looking like she was on the verge of going berserk at any moment .
His heart felt warm . How nice was it that he had been able to meet her, get to know her, and come so far with her . He smiled and winked at her, causing her to blush . Lips still curled in a smile, he shifted his gaze to the reporter who had spoken and said to him:
"Love . "
(Love is the greatest stimulant . )