By Nick Mulvenney
JAKARTA, Aug 21 : Liu Xiang swam a world record time to win Asian Games gold and teenage sensation Rikako Ikee won her fourth title of the meet as China and Japan maintained a firm grip on the honours at the Jakarta pool on Tuesday.
Sun Yang again stamped his class on the Games in the 400 metres freestyle and even though world record holder Ippei Watanabe was upset in the 200m breaststroke final, the Asian superpowers swept the golds for a third straight night.
Multiple world and Olympic champion Sun’s masterful display of power swimming earned him a third title in Jakarta after his triumphs in the 200m and 800m freestyle and helped China edge ahead of Japan in the medals table with 11 golds to 10.
Liu opened China’s account in spectacular fashion by steaming down the pool in 26.98 seconds, bettering the 27.06 which her compatriot and former world champion Zhao Jing swam in a bodysuit in Rome in 2009.
“It was like a dream. I did not expect to do that!” the 21-year-old told reporters.
“It’s not even my favourite event. I’ve improved my legwork over the last few months and I think that made me better.” While it was Liu’s first major title, Ikee had won three over the last two nights alone and she continued her blistering form in the women’s 200 metres butterfly.
The 18-year-old went stroke-for-stroke with Zhang Yufei over the first lap but eased away in the final 50 metres to win in 56.30 seconds, her third individual Games record in three finals in Jakarta.
Ikee had to settle for silver in the 4x200m freestyle relay as China’s women won gold by a good 10 metres in 7.48.61. Hong Kong won the bronze.
Earlier, with Kazakhstan’s Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin skipping the men’s 200 metres breaststroke for fear of aggravating an injury, the way was cleared for Watanabe to back up January’s world record with a first Asian Games title.
It was not to be, however, and despite a late surge for the wall, he came up one hundredth of a second short with his fellow Japanese Yasuhiro Koseki taking the title by a fingertip in 2:07.81.
Sun ensured the 400 freestyle was nowhere near as close, hitting the front at the halfway mark and taking a lead of some three metres into the final lap before retaining his title in 3.42.92.
“It shows I can still compete in the 400m,” said Sun, who beat Japan’s Naito Ehara and Kosuke Hagino into silver and bronze.
“I am very happy given this is day three of the meet. If this race was on day one or two, I’d have done better.” China also took the men’s 50m freestyle sprint through Yu Hexin (22.11), while Yui Ohashi won the women’s 400 metres medley in 4.34.58 for Japan.