Olympics: Unexpected Pool Medal Keeps China on Top

Pang Jiaying won an unexpected swimming bronze medal Wednesday as the host nation's women gymnasts geared up to equal the golden exploits of the country's men.

(From L) Slovenia's Sara Isakovic, Italy's Federica Pellegrini and China's Pang Jiaying pose with their medals after the women's 200m freestyle swimming medal ceremony at the National Aquatics Center on August 13, 2008.

Pang stunned the field to finish third behind winner Federica Pellegrini of Italy in the women's 200 metres freestyle, in which a new world record time of one minute 54.82 seconds was set.

"I didn't expect this medal, my coach told me that even eighth place would be okay," said a delighted Pang, who touched in more than two seconds faster than her previous personal best.

"Other swimmers have endurance but my advantage is speed. I gave it all that I had. Hopefully, the bronze medal will encourage our team."

China's other big medal hope in the pool, Wu Peng, came fourth in the men's 200m butterfly with unstoppable American Michael Phelps first in a new world record time.

Pang's swim boasted China's medal tally to 13 golds, three silvers and five bronzes in the battle to be the most dominant sporting nation on earth.

Thanks to Phelps, the Americans now have nine gold, seven silver and nine bronze medals.

China gave themselves another chance of swimming success after Liu Zige qualified fastest for the final of the women's 200m butterfly with team-mate Jiao Liuyang third quickest.

Only world record-holder Jessicah Schipper of Australia separated them.

While China's women gymnasts are slight favourites at the National Indoor Stadium Wednesday, a rare bout of nerves in the qualifiers has given their rivals, led by the United States, a glimmer of hope.

Head coach Lu Shanzhen rated their performance at only 70 percent after a string of errors, with tiny He Kexin falling from the uneven bars, and his young team will not want to rile him any further.

The United States are led by Shawn Johnson, coached by China's Qiao Liang, and the battle between the two gymnastic superpowers is shaping as one of the biggest of the Games.

China has won five weightlifting golds so far in Beijing and 23-year-old Liu Chunhong is aiming to add another Wednesday in the women's 69kg category.

Liu is Asia's top lifter in the weight but faces a tough challenger in Russia's Oxana Slivenko, who holds the world record of 276kg.

Li Hongli, the 2006 Asian Games champion, is the home nation's key hope in the men's 77kg division with his main opponent defending champion Taner Sagir from Turkey.

China has won two of the eight shooting golds contested till now and has a chance to add to the tally in the women's 25m Pistol.

Chen Ying, who has been shooting since she was 10, is the world champion but has a history of choking, finishing fourth at the Athens Games in 2004 .

With three out three diving gold medals in the bag, China's dream team look set for a fourth in the men's three-metre springboard final.

World champion Qin Kai's biggest threat comes from Canada's Olympic silver medallist Alexandre Despatie.

The country's top-ranked badminton players are back in action in the women's singles quarter-finals, with the top three seeds, Xie Xingfang, Lu Lan and Zhang Ning all playing.

National coach Li Yongbo has told his star names they need to play every game as if it were their last.

"Because the Olympics are so special anything can happen," he said. "The Olympics are a different reality."

China is poised for a clean sweep in the table tennis which gets underway with the men's and women's team events.

The top four men and top five women in the world hail from the mainland with the men starting against Greece and the women against Croatia.

Source: AFP

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