Sun Yang responded to taunts about his doping history in emphatic fashion on Monday by becoming the first Chinese swimmer to win the Olympic men’s 200 metres freestyle gold medal.
Sun, silver medallist in the event in London four years ago, touched the wall in one minute, 44.65 seconds to beat South Africa’s Chad Le Clos by 0.55 seconds.
It was Sun’s second medal of the Games after his silver in Saturday’s 400 free.
Conor Dwyer of the United States won bronze.
France’s Yannick Agnel, who won gold in London four years ago, was absent after being eliminated in the heats.
Monday’s victory was the third gold of Sun’s Olympic career, and sixth medal, adding to the 400 and 1 500 metres titles he won in London.
Britain’s world champion James Guy, whose room mate Adam Peaty stormed to breaststroke gold on Sunday and ended his country’s 28 year wait for a male Olympic swimming champion, finished fourth.
In his delight at winning, Sun took off his swimming cap and attempted to throw it to Chinese supporters in the crowd above him, but it landed in the pool and he had to retrieve it.
It was not his first misstep of a controversial week that has seen a splashing incident in training escalate into a battle conducted via the media between him and his Australian rivals.
A Chinese state newspaper described Australia as “uncivilized” and “Britain’s offshore prison” as it rushed to Sun’s defence after he was labelled a drugs cheat by Australian 400 freestyle gold medallist Mack Horton.
Sun was revealed two years ago to have secretly served a three-month suspension for using a banned stimulant.
He said it was medication to treat a heart issue and did not enhance performance.