Having missed out on selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, former Sydney University Swimming Club member Will Yang put the disappointment behind him when named in the 41-strong Australian swimming team for the upcoming Paris Games.

The former Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness Elite Athlete Program member and Male Blue of the Year in 2019 has been named as a member of the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team after swimming 48.08 to finish second to Kyle Chalmers (47.75) in the 100m freestyle at the recent Australian Olympic trials.

Yang took eight months off swimming after missing Tokyo Games selection but returned with a vengeance at the 2022 Australian Championships in Adelaide, claiming the 100m title in a personal best time of 48.55s.

He then won gold in the 4x100m mixed relay and silver in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the FINA World Championships in Budapest. The Bachelor of Design in Architecture student backed that up at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games winning gold on the first day of competition as a member of the Australian 4x100m mixed squad relay that edged out England (silver) and Canada (bronze). He then won a second gold as a member of the  men’s 4x100m freestyle relay.

Born in Sydney, Yang’s Chinese parents moved back to Guangzhou in southern China where he completed his primary schooling and returned to Sydney when he was 11 for him to attend Knox Grammar for high school. It was there that he began excelling in sports, especially swimming. When he became a freshman at Sydney University in 2019, he joined the swimming club and started serious training with an Olympic dream. He  won gold in the 50m butterfly at the World University Games in Naples and the 50m backstroke title at the Australian Championships and the Tokyo Olympic dream took shape.

But that dream took a hit just before the 2023 Australian titles when scans revealed a benign tumour in bis spinal canal that required surgery. After overcoming that setback, a cartilage tear in his should put him out of action for another two months before he returned to training in January this year.

That led to him reclaiming the NSW 100m freestyle title in March and he then set a personal best time of 48.20sec to finish second behind 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers at the Australian Open Championships on the Gold Coast in April.

Yang said the health scares had changed focus on how to approach his swimming career. He said he has not taken anything for granted and has taken every opportunity that has come his way. “It has made me tougher mentally,” he said. “I just view it as a positive experience. My perspective just changed a lot after what I went through.”

His persistence paid off and given the make-up of the relay team, a medal in Paris is not out of reach.