Despair turns to joy for record breaker

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 January, 1996, 12:00am

FOURTEEN-year-old Han Xue wiped away tears of despair to set a new world record in the women's 50 metres breaststroke in the Epson World Cup at Kowloon Park Pool last night.

Beijing-born Han sobbed on the shoulders of her coach and mentor Yao Zhengji yesterday morning after being disqualified from the women's 100 metres freestyle heats for illegally moving on the blocks.

But Yao's pep-talk inspired Han to unprecedented heights in her specialty breaststroke event as she beat her rivals to clock 31.11 seconds, breaking Sweden's Louise Karlsson's three-year-old mark of 31.19.

'I thought that I could break the record, but I couldn't believe it when I actually did,' said Han.

'I was very disappointed to be disqualified from the 100 metres freestyle. But my coach was not angry with me. He just urged me to do well in the breaststroke.' Han, who joined China's national team two years ago, now has two world records. She also shares the record for the women's 4 X 100 metres freestyle relay.

She added: 'I used to be second or third in China in the breaststroke, but now I think I am the best. But I have never come close to making a world record before.' Han has another chance to improve on her record when she takes part in the second leg of the eight-event World Cup short-course series in Beijing this week.

Despite Han's record, coach Yao said it would be tough for her to strike gold at the July Olympics in Atlanta.

'Australia's Samantha Riley is much more experienced that Han, so it will be very difficult for her to win gold in Atlanta,' he said.

Han was one of five Chinese gold medal winners on the second and final day of the competition, taking China's total to 14 gold out of a possible 34. The Chinese also won eight silver and seven bronze medals.

Japan were second with six gold while New Zealand were third with five.