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New world order as Asia basks in glory

Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and Chinese gymnast Yang Wei led a golden day for Asia on Thursday that showcased the continent's growing sports power.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2008 00:28 IST
Andrew Cawthorne

Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and Chinese gymnast Yang Wei led a golden day for Asia on Thursday that showcased the continent's growing sports power even as the hosts powered ahead in the medals' table on Games day six.

There was a rare sour note in an otherwise good-natured Games when a Swedish wrestler tossed away his bronze medal in disgust at the refereeing. "I don't care about this medal," said Ara Abrahamian, pulling the prize off his neck on the podium.

In the Water Cube, Asia's greatest swimmer Kitajima stole the spotlight from American Michael Phelps with an unprecedented "double-double" in the breaststroke, adding the 200 metres gold to the 100 title he won on Monday. He won both in Athens in 2004.

"I was not thinking about winning two gold medals at two consecutive Olympics," he said. "I was just focused on doing my best in Beijing."

There were sweet victories too for Chinese gymnast Yang Wei, who ended eight years of hurt in the men's individual all-round event, and for shooter Du Li, who had broken down in tears after failing to win the first gold of the Games on day one.

China even took an unexpected gold in women's archery thanks to Zhang Juan Juan. That ended South Korea's streak of winning every women's Olympic archery gold medal since 1984.

Asian nations have won nearly half of the golds so far.

Mongolia joined the party, taking the first gold medal in its history when Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the 100kg judo, rolling his opponent over three times in a show of brute force.

China lead the overall medals' table with 22 golds.

America follow on 10 gold — five of those thanks to swimmer Phelps and relay teammates — but will expect to come back strongly when track-and-field events start on Friday.

Germany are third with seven gold, followed by South Korea and Italy on six.

China's Communist Party newspaper hailed a resurgent Asia's medals' success as proof of historical and economic trends that were overturning "the old disparities" in sports competition.

"The traditional sporting powers face stronger and stronger challengers," the People's Daily said.

Replacing old Cold War rival Russia as America's main challenger at the Olympics, China came second in Athens and is mounting a formidable challenge to go one better at home.

The world's most populous nation has shown its new wealth, confidence and technological ability with a dazzling opening ceremony, record Games spending of $43 billion, some architecturally astonishing venues and meticulous organisation.