China and Japan share honours

Japan's Atsushi Nashikori exults after winning the 100m backstroke event at the Sajik Swimming Pool in Busan on Thursday. — Photo: V. Sudershan

Japan's Atsushi Nashikori exults after winning the 100m backstroke event at the Sajik Swimming Pool in Busan on Thursday. — Photo: V. Sudershan  

BUSAN Oct. 3 . China and Japan shared the honours even by picking up three golds each on the fourth day of the swimming competitions of the 14th Asian Games at the Sajik swimming pool on Thursday. The day, however, missed the excitement of last night when Kosuke Kitajima had brought home in such sensational style a new world record in the men's 200m breaststroke.

Not at least until the Japanese again found in Takashi Yamamoto, late into the evening, a new hero. Though the 24-year-old was able to go only under the existing Games record in the men's 100m butterfly final, what still endeared Yamamoto to the large band of Japanese supporters was the manner in which he put down his surprise defeat at the hands of China' Wu Peng in the 200m two days ago and raised his level of performance when it mattered most today.

Yamamoto, after having topped the 200m heats, was the absolute favourite to win that race on Tuesday. Again another defeat seemed to stare at this Japanese swimmer today when team-mate Kohei Kawamoto made the turn into the final lap and threatened to power his way ahead. There was nothing unnatural in it, as it was Kawamoto who had topped the morning heats with a new Games record to boot.

However, close to the half-way mark of the final lap, Yamamoto, it did seem, was unprepared totally to give up that easily. And as he attacked to catch up with Kawamoto, the crowd was clearly behind him. The interesting turn to the event took place during the closing stages as Yamamoto finally surged ahead and touched in 52.59s, only 0.63s ahead of Kawamoto. Hao Jin of China followed the two Japanese swimmers in 53.56s.

Atsushi Nishikori was the other Japanese winner in the men's section, scooping up the 100m backstroke gold after pipping Commonwealth Games medallist Lim Keng Liat of Malaysia in another close finish. Again, it was Lim who had made the turn ahead of the others but as Nishikori came back strongly into the race, the Malaysian was a failure in holding on to his early lead. Tomomi Morita of Japan was the winner of the bronze.

The much-awaited 100m freestyle was won by China's Chen Zuo in 50.76s after pushing his team-mate Liu Yu to the second spot. Japan's Daisuke Hosokawa was third in 51.22s, 0.46s behind Liu Yu.

China was the dominant force in the women's section but was unable to make a complete sweep as Japan's Sachiko Yamada denied 1998 Bangkok winner Chen Hua a second straight gold in the 400m freestyle. It was Chen, who led the earlier part of this race, but once Yamada made known her intentions close to the first 100m mark, the Chinese could hardly trouble her rival who went to garner the gold in a new Games record time of 4:07.23.

Likewise, world-record holder Hui Qi of China was never in trouble before she took the 200m breaststroke gold with a new Games record time. With Luo Xuejuan, the former world record holder in 50m, around there was much expectations of a keen tussle developing between the two Chinese swimmers. But then, Hui was fully in control right from the word go and Luo only stayed behind before the favourite took the title in 2:24.01.

China also took the 4 x 100m freestyle relay gold, eclipsing the existing Games record for the event. The winning Chinese team included Yang Yu, Zhu Ying Wen, Ju Jieli and Xu Yanwei.

Earlier, in the morning, Mir Akbar Ali of India did figure in the second heats of 100m backstroke but could only finish last in 1:01.77 and eleventh overall among 14 entrants.

The results:

Men: 100m freestyle: 1. Chen Zuo (Chn), 50.76s, 2. Liu Yu (Chn), 50.83s, 3. Daisuke Hosokawa (Jpn), 51.22s. 100m backstroke: 1. Atsushi Nishikori (Jpn), 55.17s, 2. Lim Keng Liat (Mas), 55.18s, 3. Tomomi Morita (Jpn), 55.32s. 100m butterfly: 1. Takashi Yamamoto (Jpn), 52.59s, 2. Kohei Kawamoto (Jpn), 53.22s, 3. Hao Jin (Chn), 53.56s.

Women: 400m freestyle: 1. Sachiko Yamada (Jpn), 4:07.23, 2. Chen Hua (Chn), 4:12.24, 3. Tang Jingzhi (Chn), 4:15.82. 200m breaststroke: 1. Hui Qi (Chn), 2:24.01, 2. Luo Xuejuan (Chn), 2:24.67, 3. Fumiko Kawanabe (Jpn), 2:29.82. 4 x 100m freestyle relay: 1. China (Yang Yu, Zhu Ying Wen, Ju Jielei, Xu Yanwei), 3:40.95, 2. Japan (Maki Mita, Tomoko Nagai, Norie Urabe, Sachiko Yamada), 3:44.59, 3. South Korea (Ryu Yoon-Ji, Kim Hyun-Joo, Shim Min-Ji, Sun So-Eun), 3:44.81.

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