Zhang was 0.45 second faster than the former Asian record holder, Olympic champion Liu Zige, who has kept it for 11 years. There is only a 0.14-second difference between Zhang’s new record and the world record held by Swedish Sarah Sjostrom.
“It was beyond my imagination. I had thought the best result would be around 55.8 seconds,” said Zhang.
“This is the first major tournament in the last 11 months because of the epidemic. I know I can swim faster this time and want to see how fast I could be,” said the bronze medalist of the world championships.
Zhang wants to improve her time further in 200m butterfly after the championships.
“The Tokyo Olympics were postponed, and this is good for me. Now I have more time to prepare and will try to show my best in the Olympics,” she said.
The 22-year-old swimmer also broke the national record of the women’s 100m freestyle in 52.90 seconds on Sunday.