Balding asked whether any questions would be raised as to how the sixteen year old managed to shave five seconds off her own personal best.
Shiwen swam the final 50m of the 400m medley faster than the men’s gold medal winner in the same vent, American Ryan Lochte, had managed moments earlier, and soundly beat all of the female competitors in her own event.
This prompted a stunned Balding to cast doubt over the young swimmer’s performance, asking: “How many questions will there be about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she has ever swum before?”
Former British Olympian Mark Foster, Balding’s pundit partner, said: “It was a five-second best time and it was the way she did it as well. Bearing in mind she is 16 years of age, and when you are young you do some of your best times… it can be done.”
Chinese swimming has been plaugued by doping scandals, as recently as last month. Balding’s comments found her both supporters and critics, though, with some supporting her decision to cast doubt over the legitimacy of Shiwen’s performance, and those calling for her to be sacked from the BBC.
Hmmmm…! That missing word is ‘torch’ by the way.