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Kosuke, China Biggest Winners in Pool of Asian Games
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Japanese breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima emerged as the most flamboyant star while China came back to rule the swimming competition with 20 gold medals after six-day competition finished in the Asian Games on Saturday.

For China, the comprehensive 20-11 win in the gold standing was a no-better revenge after they lost to Japan 13-15 at the Bangkok Asian Games four years ago.

The hosts, South Korea bursted out Saturday when Kim Min-suk tied the top place with Ravil Nachaev of Uzbekistan in the men's 50 meters freestyle, breaking the China-Japan block on the final day.

Zhao Ge, Chinese national head coach, said, "I am satisfied with the results my swimmers have scored in the games. We have prepared for the Asiad since January this year and shown our power in the pool."

Asian record book tells the story. Before coming to Busan, in men's Asian record book, China only had its name in the 200m backstroke event and the other 15 were held by their Japanese rivals. After six-day splashes in Sajik pool, Chinese men's swimmers shattered three Asian records with seven gold medals.

Yu Cheng knocked more than three seconds off the Asian record in the 1,500 meters freestyle while his teammate Wu Peng, a teenage giant-killer, claimed two golds including the one in the 400m individual medley with a new Asian mark.

Chinese men's relay quartet stunned the Japanese by 2.36 seconds in the 4x100m freestyle relay, also in Asian record pace.

"Our men swimmers helped a lot to our victory in the Asiad, as well as women swimmers who took golds as expected, " Zhao said.

In their subdued pre-meet picture, China pinned all their hopes on women, including two-time world champion Luo Xuejuan and world record holder Qi Hui as "double safe" in the breaststroke, together with freestylers.

They came up to the expectation by capturing 13 golds with three Asian records. Xu Yanwei, from Shanghai, became the first five-gold winner of the games through 50 and 100m freestyle and three relays.

A new Chinese talent also appeared from the pool as Zhou Yafei topped in the 100m butterfly in 58.88, finished second in 200m medley behind breaststroker Qi and third in 400m medley before winning a golden 4x100m medley relay with her teammates.

"We are making some progress but we can not say we beat Japan who is still a powerhouse in Asia with depth. Kosuke Kitajima has just set a high standard and become a role model for all the Asian men swimmers." the Chinese head coach said.

Kitajima smashed the oldest world record in men's swimming Wednesday, 10 days after his 20th birthday, finishing the 200m breaststroke in 2:09.97, 0.19 seconds faster than the mark American Mike Barrowman set at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.

The world championships bronze medalist said "A world record at this games, in Asia, is a big, big thing for me. I have worked hard for this for a long time and I don't feel I have even reached my limit."

Still recovering from his elbow injury in the Pan Pacific Championships where he claimed victory in 100m in Yokohama, Japan, five weeks ago, the Tokyo-born Kitajima said he can swim faster and hope to maintain the form to the next season and the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Koji Ueno, Japanese head coach, said, "We are proud of Kitajima's sparkling world record and the efforts all the swimmers contributed to the team in Busan after a packed season."

The Asiad is the fifth big events that Japanese swimmers competed in the season, including the PanPacs in late August when they came to third with two golds, four silvers and eight bronzes, just behind world heavyweights the United States and Australia.

"We have some impressive performance as Sachiko Yamada and Takashi Yamamoto did here in Busan," Ueno said.

Yamada, world championships bronze medalist, beat long-time rival and defending champion Chen Hua of China for the first time at an international meet in the women's 400m freestyle, entering the top three in this year's ranking list.

Yamamoto, defending champion and two Asian record holder in men's butterfly, suffered a surprising upset to China's 15-year-old Wu Peng in the 200m but bounced back in the 100m, winning the title in a new game record, 0.04 seconds outside his own Asian record.

"I have to say that a gap of nine golds to China is larger than we expected. It is a failure. But we are more shocked by the Chinese young talents. They are so young and so fast," the Japanese coach said.

(People's Daily October 6, 2002)

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