SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Raw emotion overflowed when Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen and Brazilian Cesar Cielo triumphed in the face of true adversity at the world swimming championships Monday.
Teen-ager Ye Shiwen, backed by a deafening roar from a passionate home crowd, also won China’s first swimming gold at this year’s event after producing a storming freestyle lap in the women’s 200 meters individual medley.
Ye provided plenty of excitement as she eclipsed Olympic champion Stephanie Rice of Australia, who finished fourth.
Dale Oen and Cielo overcame personal anguish to win the men’s 100 breaststroke and 50 butterfly respectively.
The 26-year-old Dale Oen has been struggling to cope after the “shocking” attacks in Oslo Friday plunged his compatriots into national mourning.
The Norwegian, less expressive than he was Sunday, said he was still dealing with what happened at home when a mass shooting and bombing killed at least 90 people.
“I try to imagine what it is like at home but it’s hard,” Dale Oen told reporters. “Though it’s three to four days ago it’s still shocking.”
Cielo almost did not compete in Shanghai after escaping a possible doping ban and he burst into tears at the end of the race and again on the podium.
“I‘m so glad I can be here to swim,” said Cielo who was only cleared to swim here last Thursday.
”I‘m an emotional man. My career is a great passion and the gold means a lot to me.
“There were some hard times but thanks to the help from my team I have got through it and will learn to become much stronger,” added Cielo.
American Michael Phelps, who has received the loudest cheers outside of the local swimmers whenever he has stepped on the pool deck, almost disappointed as he came within a whisker of failing to qualify for the 200 freestyle final.
Phelps, trailing in fifth place with less than 50 meters to go, was forced into turbo-charge to overtake two swimmers and finish third in his semi-final and sneak into Tuesday’s final with the fifth fastest time overall.
The final will be stacked full of talent, with Phelps, 2009 world champion and world record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany, 400 freestyle champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, American Ryan Lochte and top qualifier Yannick Agnel of France looking for bragging rights ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
“I feel fine and am excited about the race tomorrow,” said Biedermann. “It’s going to be tough. All the people here are swimming for the Olympics next year.”
American Dana Vollmer claimed her first world individual title by winning the 100 butterfly.
Vollmer had only previously won a gold as a member of the 4x200 freestyle relay in Melbourne in 2007.
“I feel so excited ... absolutely awesome,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Soo Ai Peng)
Editing by Tony Jimenez