Shanghai :Chinese swim star Ning Zetao will not defend his 100m freestyle world title next month after failing to qualify for the Budapest showpiece, state media has said.

The fresh-faced Ning, a fan favourite in China after winning the world championship crown in 2015, clocked 49.67 seconds this week in his 100m free heat in a trial for the Chinese National Games, his first competitive race since last year’s Olympics, Xinhua news agency said.

However the 24-year-old — hugely popular in China for his good looks as well as his success in the pool — then quit the final, citing a waist injury.

“Ning’s result didn’t beat the designated A cut time. He is not the top-ranked swimmer among those who meet the B cut, so he is not eligible to compete at the world championships,” Xinhua quoted Zhao Jian, vice director of the Chinese Swimming Association, as saying.

Ning has a colourful past: he served a one-year suspension after testing positive for the prohibited substance clenbuterol in 2011, and in February this year he was thrown out of the China team for “violating the rules”. He bombed at last summer’s Rio Olympics, failing to qualify for the 100m freestyle final. The 2017 world championships take place in Hungary from July 14 to 30.

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