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Shi makes a splash at new venue
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China's Shi Feng became the first gold medalist at the newly opened National Aquatics Center in Beijing on Friday.

China's Shi Feng celebrates after winning the men's 100m butterfly final at the 2008 Swimming China Open in Beijing on Friday.

The 20-year-old overcame teammate Wang Dong in the 100m butterfly at the clocking 53.43 seconds.

The landmark Olympic venue is also called Water Cube for its blue membrane that looks like bubble-wrap.

Shi said he had not expected to win the first gold, but added he was "delighted and excited to be here."

The bubble-wrapped facility is the venue for swimming, diving and synchronized swimming at Beijing Olympic Games in August this year.

Chinese swimmers also claimed the second gold in women's 4x200m freestyle relay, clocking 8 minutes and 9.50 seconds, 8.25 seconds ahead of Germany. But the Germans were the biggest winner for the day with three golds.

Germany's Paul Biedermann coasted into the top in the men's 200m freestyle with a winning time of 1:48.51, narrowly beating Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski and Chinese freestyler Zhang Lin, who was the first to touch the wall in the preliminary.

Zhang said after the race that he had difficulties adjusting to the competition schedule.

Biedermann, who also swam the anchor leg in the men's 4x100 meters medley relay, helped his team claim the title. Another German freestyler and world record holder Britta Steffen won the women's 100m freestyle, clocking 54.73 seconds.

The German said she came for a try out the Water Cube.

The Olympic favorite said winning a medal in Beijing was one of her dreams and added that swimmers from Australia and the United States posed the biggest challenge for her.

However, Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak, a winner at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games in the women's 200m butterfly, lost to little known Natsumi Hoshi from Japan.

The Beijing event has attracted more than 230 swimmers from 30 countries and regions, with some big names among them. Powerhouses like the US and Australia only sent observers to Beijing.

(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)

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