The 23-year-old has been in red-hot form this year and hit the wall in a new Olympic record time of 2mins 03.86sec ahead of American Regan Smith (2:05.30) and team-mate Hali Flickinger (2:06.65).
#CHN’s Zhang Yufei dominates the women’s 200m butterfly from start to finish with a time of 2:03.86 – an Olympic Re… https://t.co/GKuX1r1EQV
— Olympics (@Olympics) 1627526283000
Victory comes as a timely boost for China, who now have their first swimming gold medal in Tokyo to add to one silver, which Zhang won in the 100m fly, and a bronze.
Zhang, a sprint free and fly specialist, had been one of only two women to crack 2:06.00 this year, with Flickinger the other. Her Olympic record at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre was also the quickest time posted in 12 years.
#swimming Women’s 200m Butterfly FINAL #CHN ZHANG Yufei is the new Olympic Champion!!!⏱OLYMPIC RECORD: 2:03.86 https://t.co/GkUN94uqyb
— FINA (@fina1908) 1627526021000
The 23-year-old exploded from the blocks to pull more than a second clear at the first turn and she was motoring at world record pace when the race reached halfway.
Flickinger, who took silver at the 2019 World Championships, was Zhang’s closest challenger going into the last length but she was unable to close the gap and was pipped to silver by Smith at the end.
Zhang will hope to claim her third individual medal in the 50m freestyle, which starts on Friday.