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Asia Rattles Western Dominance in Swimming

Posted August. 15, 2008 07:55,   


Asia has overcome its mediocrity in swimming to challenge the West’s dominance in the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Three Asian countries have own gold medals in swimming -- Korea in the freestyle, China in the butterfly and Japan in the breaststroke.

Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, 26, broke the Olympic record in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke yesterday.

China claimed two medals, including its first swimming gold in the women’s 200-meter butterfly.

Kitajima beat Brenton Rickard of Australia at the Beijing National Aquatics Center. The Japanese had broken the world record in winning the men’s 100-meter breaststroke and claimed another gold in the 200-meter butterfly, falling 0.13 seconds short of his own world record.

Kitajima, who won the breaststroke in 2004, proved himself the world’s best breaststroke swimmer. He is the first to win the breaststroke in two consecutive Olympics.

“My victory in the 100-meter race helped me to win today’s medal. Otherwise, I would’ve been nervous. As I claimed a gold medal already, I competed more comfortably. I was calm enough to see all the faces in the stadium clearly,” he said.

China was outstanding as well.

Pang Jiaying, 23, won the bronze in the women’s 200-meter freestyle and Liu Zige, 19, took the gold and Jiao Liuyang, 18, the silver in the women’s 200-meter butterfly.

Liu broke the world record, and she and Jiao beat Jessica Schipper of Australia, who came in third.

AFP said the awesome race was a moment China will remember for a long time. China won a bronze before in the Olympics but earned its first gold and silver in women’s swimming.

Liu said calmly, “I felt no pressure before the race.”

The phenomenal victories of Michael Phelps of the United States overshadowed Asia’s rise to prominence in swimming, but Asian swimmers still captured much of the spotlight.

The first Asian medalist was Korea’s 19-year-old Park Tae-hwan, who won the men’s 400-meter freestyle and a silver in the 200-meter freestyle. His victory was encouraging because the freestyle competition, particularly those of short distances, was considered an insurmountable barrier to Asians.

Asia is expected to keep posting good results in the next Olympics. For Korea, Park could do bigger and better things given that he is only 19.

For China, their winners in this Olympics are still in their teens.

More impressive was that the Asian swimmers won in short-distance freestyle and the butterfly, two events that require strong power.