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Asian nations come good in Beijing

india Updated: Aug 11, 2008 16:39 IST

AFP
Highlight Story

Asian nations firmly established themselves on the Olympic medal table Monday with Japan's Kosuke Kitajima setting a world record and Abhinav Bindra winning an historic gold for India.

South Korea added to its gold tally in the men's team archery while China had success in diving and women's weightlifting.

Kitajima, the 100m breaststroke king, smashed American Brendan Hansen's world mark to touch in 58.91sec and successfully defend his Athens title in the futuristic Water Cube.

It was Japan's second gold of the Games after Masato Uchishiba retained his lightweight title on the judo mats on Sunday.

Bindra had an equally memorable day, clinching India's first ever individual Olympic gold medal by winning the men's 10m Air Rifle shooting title.

Athens champion Zhu Qinan of China took the silver.

While India's success was historic, regional powerhouse China is set to overshadow every other Asian country's achievements here, and it leads the medal standings with eight gold.

South Korea (four gold) and Japan (two gold) traditionally battle for second best.

A rampant China had its best-ever performance in Athens, finishing second overall to the United States with 32 gold, while Japan with 16 came fifth. South Korea's nine gold earned them ninth place.

While the three Asian heavyweights should again take the bulk of the glory, smaller fry like Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and North Korea already have themselves on the podium here with more in store.

Kitajima, who let out a piercing yell of triumph, said his victory was a dream come true.

"My performance was perfect and ideal, my time was excellent. It's what I have been hoping for," said the Japanese star, who launches his defense of the 200m title on Tuesday.

"When I saw the screen I could see the time as 59.90 and I thought that was terribly slow, but when I looked again it was 58."

Elsewhere in the pool, China's Zhou Yafei finished just off the podium in a credible fourth in the women's 100m butterfly final which was won by Australia's Libby Trickett.

Singapore had something to shout about with Tao Li in the same race. The 18-year-old finished fifth after clocking a new Asian record of 57.54 en-route to the final.

In one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history, businessman Bindra overcame a two-point deficit against Finland's Henri Hakkinen and one point against Zhu after the qualification rounds to annexe the title.

Bindra finished with a combined tally of 700.5, a fair distance behind Zhu's Olympic record of 702.7 set in Athens.

"It can't get better than this, can it?" said an elated Bindra, a winner of India's highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (sports jewel), in 2001.

"I know India was waiting for this for a long time and so was I. I narrowly missed a medal at Athens so I knew I would be in with a chance if I focussed on the job."

India, winners of eight field hockey gold medals, had never won an individual Olympic title before Bindra's feat.

North Korea added another bronze to its tally through O Jong Ae O in the 58kg category of the women's weightlifting, which was won by China's world record holder Chen Yanqing.

South Korea's invincible archers continued their domination by claiming the men's team gold, with China taking bronze. China also won a diving gold in the men's 10m synchronized platform.