Dominant Chinese sound Cup warning
CHINESE swimmers sounded a warning to their World Cup short-course rivals, sweeping nine of the 17 gold medals on offer in the first leg of the eight-meeting series at Hong Kong's Kowloon Park Pool last night.
China's dominance in the Epson-sponsored event came despite their coaches admitting that the swimmers have yet to attain peak performance.
Zhou Ming, deputy head coach of the Chinese squad, said he expects the swimmers to improve as the series continues.
'The number of medals we won was good news, but our performances were only average,' said Zhou.
'We have only been preparing for about five or six weeks and we have not yet reached our peak. As the series continues, we hope to get better.' China won a total of 18 medals, including five silver, with Japan second in the medal standings with three golds.
Triple world record holder Liu Limin led China's charge, missing out on her world record for the women's 100 metres butterfly by 0.76 of a second, clocking 59.44 seconds, which was more than two seconds ahead of Japan's Tomoko Kunimitsu. Liu has been suffering from 'flu, but was happy with her win.
'It was not my best performance, but I hope to do better when I take part in Beijing,' she said.
Beijing will stage the second leg of the series next week.
No other swimmer came close to any world records, but China's Jia Yuanyuan was the only double gold winner in taking the women's 200 metres backstroke and the 50 metres backstroke.
Le Jingyi, world record holder in the women's 50 metres freestyle, only took part in the 200 metres freestyle, cruising home in 1:57.63.
Also striking gold for China were women's 100-metre breaststroker Han Xue, women's 200 metres individual medley specialist Chen Yan, men's 200-metre backstroker Wang Yiwu, men's 100-metre individual medley swimmer Zhao Lifeng and men's 50-metre butterfly star Jiang Chengji.
Japan's Eri Yamanoi was the only swimmer to win gold in an event featuring Chinese women when she won the 800 metres freestyle in 8:32.24 over China's Luo Ping.
New Zealand's Danyon Loader won the men's 400 metres freestyle - the event in which he set a world record of 3:40.46 in Sheffield last year.
However, Loader was more than seven seconds off his record yesterday with a time of 3:47.88. He was matched stroke for stroke by China's Shang Hengqing for most of the race, but with three lengths remaining, stepped up a gear to win by nearly four seconds.
Hong Kong's swimmers were also able to win places on the winners' podium with one silver and four bronze medals.
Although Jacqueline Woo won the silver in the women's 50 metres backstroke, Alex Fong Li-sun was the territory's star performer by setting a national record in the men's 400 metres individual medley.
Fong took the bronze in 4:30.53, beating Mark Kwok's previous record of 4:32.02.
Hong Kong also found a potential new star in Christopher Ford, whose parents are based in the territory although he is from Australia.
Ford, who finished third in the men's 100 metres backstroke, has based himself in Hong Kong for the past year with the hope of representing the territory in major international events.
Hong Kong also won bronze through Snowie Pang in the women's 50 metres backstroke and Heidi Wong in the women's 200 metres individual medley.