China's Sun Yang celebrates after the men's 400m free style final of swimming at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on July 23, 2017. Sun Yang won the gold medal with 3 minutes and 41.38 seconds. (Xinhua/Ding Xu)
BUDAPEST, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Muscle pain did not deter Sun Yang from winning the men's 400m freestyle world championship title three times in a row. The prolific Chinese swimmer finished the race with the fastest timing of the year at the FINA World Championships here on Sunday.
Sun complained of muscle pain going into Budapest. "I trained too hard before the competition," said the 26-year-old after touching the wall first in 3:41.38. "My muscles are tired and my arms hurt particularly badly."
Sun was confident about his chances of winning the race after six laps as no finalists were close enough to catch up to him.
The runner-up Mack Horton, who edged Sun in 0.13 seconds to grab the Olympic title in Rio last year, was 2.47 seconds behind Sun this time.
"I didn't realized that I could win in such a dominant way," said Sun. "My rivals didn't race badly today, but I swam better this time."
Sun credited the result to his work with coaches Zheng Kunliang and Denis Cotterell.
"My coaches have been working so hard to help me to improve," said Sun who even cried out during some particularly tense training sessions. "A few days ago, I even wanted to give up and disappear during training. But then I thought about my coaches. I need to respect them and I want to meet their standards."
"When I worked it out, I made progress," said Sun.
The Australian coach Cotterell said he was pleased with Sun's performance Sunday evening.
"He is the athlete. No matter what I say, at the moment, when the time comes, they get on the block, they have to be the individuals...When it comes to the race, it's the moment of truth."
Sun yelled out after finding out the results on the big screen. "It seemed that there was something weighing on my heart and I finally cast it off after the race."
Cotterell added that he understood the pressure Sun was under.
"Yesterday we had a good talk about how to reduce the pressure," said Cotterell. "The whole nation, friends, trying to please the coach, for a number of reasons. But we have to make sure you don't take it as pressure. You try to see it as a support that can lift you up, and inspire. Otherwise it goes another way. It's very easy for all that support to become pressure. So I'm just so pleased that he executed the perfect race."
Sun is slated to swim the 200m freestyle heats in Monday morning. He took the gold in the event at the Rio Olympic Games last year.
He is also planning to take part in the 800m and 1,500m freestyle. He has won three times in a row in the 800m event at previous three World Championships. He took home victories in the 1500m at the 2012 Olympic Games and at two World Championships.