No stopping Hui and China

China's Chen Hua stroking her way to the 800m freestyle swimming gold on Saturday. — Photo: V. Sudershan

China's Chen Hua stroking her way to the 800m freestyle swimming gold on Saturday. — Photo: V. Sudershan  

BUSAN Oct. 5. China, which put paid to Japan's hopes of retaining the title, reclaimed the top slot as the six-day swimming competitions of the 14th Asian Games concluded at the Sajik swimming pool on Saturday. The Chinese, en route to their success, also won four of the five gold medals up for grabs today even as Ravil Nachaev (Uzbekistan) and Kim Min-Suk (South Korea) shared the 50m freestyle crown after being dead-heated at 22.86s.

The failure of the Japanese to open their account today left them stranded at 11 gold while the Chinese finished with 20 in their kitty. The domination of the Chinese was largely due to the string of fine performances from their women swimmers, particularly Hui Qu who took home three individual gold medals.

Hui's third gold of the meet came in the 400m individual medley this evening, but not before trailing teammate Zhou Ya Fei through the first two legs of the eight-lap race. However, in the butterfly segment of the race, Hui slowly began to catch up with Zhou before overtaking her in the final freestyle leg.

Hui was timed at 4:40.37 ahead of Japan's Maiko Fujino (4:43.49) who pipped Zhou (4:47.09) to third place, overtaking her midway through the final lap. Hui's earlier gold-medal efforts were in the 200m butterfly and 200m backstroke.

When it came to performance, it was another Chinese Chen Hua who stole the limelight today. The 20-year-old Hua came up with a new Asian record while winning the 800m freestyle gold in a time of 8:25.36. Hua, biding her time against Japan's Sachiko Yamada, surged ahead of the field only after seven laps while allowing her Japanese rival to keep the lead.

Once she jumped upfront, Hua simply powered her way through the rest of the nine laps, beating Yamada by more than three seconds. The fascinating finish helped Chen erase the existing Asian record of Zhang Liang (8:26.48) set last year. The previous Games record was 8:31.57 by the 1994 winner Luo Ping at Hiroshima.

Another Asian record was rewritten by the Chinese quartet of Zhan Shu, Luo Xuejan, Zhou Ya Fei and Xu Yanwei in the 4x100m medley relay. Norika Inada gave Japan a great start and Fumiko Kawanabe maintained it in the second leg. However, once Zhou Ya Fei pushed the Chinese forward in the third leg, there was no stopping them as they finished in 4:00.21, markedly better than the Asian record of 4:01.67 which had been established in Rome in 1994.

Earlier, in another pulsating finish, Ravil Nachaev and Kim Min-Suk matched stroke for stroke in their pursuit to become Asia's fastest swimmer. However, there was not to be one winner as they were dead-heated at 22.86s and took home a gold each much to the delight of the spectators. Japan's Issei Nakanishi, who was blessed with a better start, came in third in 23.14s.

Wu does it again

It was also a memorable day for Wu Peng of China who claimed his third gold of the meet, with the 200m backstroke crown. The 24-year-old Chinese was engaged in a hot duel with Japanese Takashi Nakano, who led until midway through the final lap. The Chinese, who had stayed right behind Nakano throughout, powered past the Japanese near the finish. Peng was timed 2:00.40 and Nakano 2:00.76. It was indeed a fitting climax to some tough competition all along. Kosuke Kitajima's effort in the 200m breaststroke event when he produced a world record is not likely to fade away from memory for a long time.

After a day's break, the diving competitions get underway on Monday.

The results:

Men: 50m freestyle: 1. Ravil Nachaev (Uzb) and Kim Min-Suk (Kor), 22.86s, 3. Issei Nakanishi (Jpn), 23.14s; 200m backstroke: 1. Wu Peng (Chn), 2:00.40, 2. Takashi Nakano (Jpn), 2:00.76, 3. Naoya Sonoda (Jpn), 2:01.22.

Women: 800m freestyle: 1. Chen Hua (Chn), 8:25.36 — new Asian record; 2. Sachiko Yamada (Jpn), 8:28.77, 3. Zhang Yan (Chn), 8.44.80; 400m individual medley: 1. Hui Qi (Chn), 4:40.37, 2. Maiko Fujino (Jpn), 4:43.49, 3. Zhou Ya Fei (Chn), 4:47.09; 4x100m medley relay: 1. China (Zhan Shu, Luo Xuejuan, Zhou Ya Fei, Xu Yanwei), 4:00.21 — new Asian record; 2. Japan (Norika Inada, Fumiko Kawanabe, Yuko Nakanishi, Tomoko Nagai), 4:05.75, 3. South Korea (Shim Min-Ji, Ku Hyo-Jin, Park Kyung-Wha, Sun So-Eun), 4:13.41.

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