By Andrew McNicol, CNN
(CNN) — China’s 19-year-old swimming phenom, Pan Zhanle, recorded the fastest 100 meters in history on Sunday as he smashed the men’s freestyle world record and established himself as the pacesetter ahead of the forthcoming Paris Olympics.
Pan set the stunning 46.80 seconds 100 meter freestyle swim in the leadoff leg of Team China’s gold medal-winning 4x100m relay event at the World Championships in Doha, toppling the previous world record of 46.86 held by Romanian teenager David Popovici.
“Breaking the world record just came naturally. Now my goal is to swim even faster,” the Zhejiang native told reporters post-swim.
“I was shocked when I saw the time. I wasn’t expecting to break it – I wanted to leave it for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“It’s an honor for me, and it’s motivation for both young and old swimmers. I believe I can go faster than today’s time.”
Pan later told Chinese media that he actually “had a bit of a fever” on the day but felt in good condition, informing his coaches that “there may be a surprise” in store.
Pan is the first Chinese male to hold the world record in the event. Only five men have broken the 47-second barrier in 100m freestyle history.
Pan was already Asian record holder after a World Championships outing in Fukuoka, Japan months earlier.
Pan, alongside teammates Ji Xinjie, Zhang Zhanshuo and Wang Haoyu helped China ease to 4x100m relay gold in Doha, with Italy and the US taking silver and bronze.
Zhang, who is just 16 years old, notably broke the 50 second barrier in the discipline with a time of 48.62 seconds – though only the leadoff leg of a relay counts towards official record times.
It was China’s first podium finish in the event.
National teammate Qin Haiyan set the current 200m breaststroke record at last year’s World Championships.
The two other Chinese world record holders in history are Zhang Lin, whose 800m freestyle swim from 2009 still stands, while controversial compatriot Sun Yang has held the 1,500m freestyle since 2012.
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