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Updated: December 10, 2009 20:37 IST

Taiwan’s Cheng breaks China, Japan swimming lock

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Cheng Wan Jung of Taiwan celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's 400-meter individual medley final of swimming in the East Asian Games in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: AP.
Cheng Wan Jung of Taiwan celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's 400-meter individual medley final of swimming in the East Asian Games in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: AP.

Taiwanese swimmer Cheng Wan-jung won the women’s 400-meter individual medley at the East Asian Games on Thursday, breaking China and Japan’s lock on gold medals at the pool.

The 18-year-old Cheng’s time of 4 minutes, 40.21 seconds was far from world class, but the victory over two Chinese competitors was sweet because it was a rare swimming triumph by Taiwan over its bigger and more powerful rival. China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing still claims the self-ruled island as its territory.

Liu Jing, a member of China’s world championship-winning team in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay, trailed the smaller Cheng by 0.13 seconds. Zheng Rongrong was third in 4:41.11.

Cheng said she was nervous about the final 100-meter freestyle because it’s her weakest stroke and one of Liu’s strengths.

“I was really scared that she would catch up,” Cheng said. “If she did catch up, there would be nothing I could do about it because I was out of energy. I just used my determination.”

The lingering differences between the two countries were on display during the medal ceremony. Because China doesn’t consider Taiwan a nation, the island has to use its Olympic committee flag and anthem {mdash} instead of its national flag and national anthem - at medal ceremonies.

Liu was also visibly unhappy at her performance, unable to muster a smile at the podium. Liu and Zheng also refused to attend the post-race press conference.

But Cheng’s win was just a small blip in an otherwise successful day at the pool for China. Chinese swimmers won five gold medals on the last day of competition - in the women’s 50-meter freestyle, the men’s 50-meter freestyle, the women’s 800-meter freestyle, the men’s 400-meter freestyle and the women’s 4 x 100-meter medley relay.

Japan posted wins in the men’s 200-meter butterfly and the men’s 4 x 100-meter medley relay.

The final day’s results give China a final gold medal tally of 20 at the pool to Japan’s 19.

In the first day of athletics action earlier on Thursday, two Japanese runners and a South Korean pole vaulter prevented China making a clean sweep of the first 10 gold medals.

Kenji Fujimitsu won the men’s 200 meters in 20.91 seconds and Ryosuke Awazu took out the men’ 800 meters in 1 minute, 50.66 seconds. Lim Eun-ji clinched gold in the women’s pole vault with a height of 4.20 meters.

China earned other gold medals by winning in the men’s and women’s 20-kilometer walk, the women’s shot put, the men’s long jump, the women’s 200 meters, the men’s javelin and the women’s 800 meters.

Taiwan also enjoyed success over China in tennis on Thursday.

In the women’s singles final, world No. 95, Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen, overcame China’s Zhang Shuai, who made her name by upsetting then-No. 1 Dinara Safina at the China Open in Beijing in October.

Meanwhile, her teammate, Hsieh Su-wei, the ninth-ranked female doubles player, and her partner Chuang Chia-jung defeated their South Korean opponents in straight sets to clinch gold. China’s Zhang Ze and Zeng Shaoxuan took the men’s doubles title.

Yuichi Sugita defeated compatriot Tatsuma Ito in straight sets in an all-Japanese men’s singles final.

But Taiwan was no match for China in the women’s team badminton final, losing 3-1.

South Korea won all six gold medals on offer in bowling on Thursday - in the men’s and women’s all-event finals and in the men’s and women’s trios and team-of-five competitions.

With three days left at the games, China has most gold medals with 55 - 20 more than Japan. South Korea is in third place with 28 gold medals, followed by Hong Kong with 10 and Taiwan with six.



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